Hundreds airlifted to safety by military helicopters as northwest Australia sees ‘once in a century’ floods

Australia has dispatched military helicopters to airlift hundreds of people to safety after the country’s northwest was hit by “once-in-a-century” flooding.

The crisis in the sparsely populated state of Kimberley began last week in the wake of former tropical cyclone Ellie, which brought heavy rain to the region.

An official leading the relief efforts said that water covered some places “as far as (the) eye could see”.

"The water is everywhere," Western Australia emergency services minister Stephen Dawson told reporters in Perth. "People in the Kimberley are experiencing a one-in-100-year flood event, the worst flooding Western Australia has had in its history.

“For everyone across Western Australia at this time, please take care of your family members,” he added.

The crisis is “far from over” as the cyclone moves east of the country, reported The Weekend Australian. The rainfall is expected to hit the coast of Queensland next, Sky News Weather meteorologist Alison Osborne told the outlet.

“Warm tropical oceans to our northeast are also helping to trigger the next round of heavy rainfall across the sunshine state,” Ms Osborne was quoted as saying.

“Daily showers and thunderstorms – isolated heavy falls, but widespread intense rainfalls could occur over the northern tropics.”

Even as the storm shifted eastward to trouble other states, "record-breaking major flooding" continued in the Kimberley, the Bureau of Meteorology said.

"Many roads are impassable and many communities are now isolated," the forecaster said on its website.

Authorities are assessing the damage in the remote Western Australian desert town of Fitzroy Crossing as the floodwater recedes.

With a community of around 1,300 people, it has been among the worst-hit areas in the country. Authorities have evacuated 233 people so far, as the river water runs across north of the Kimberley.

The Fitzroy River hit 15.81m at Fitzroy Crossing last Wednesday, breaking its 2002 record of 13.95m.

“Any photo you see won’t do the scale of it justice,” fire and emergency services commissioner Darren Klemm told the Australian Associated Press, saying he had never seen anything like it in the area.

Prime minister Anthony Albanese yesterday described the flooding as "devastating" and pledged federal assistance.

Australian Defence Force (ADF) aircraft were being used to assist flood-hit communities, and Chinook helicopters were en-route to help relocate residents, according to authorities on Saturday.

Additional reporting by agencies