Motorists and truckies are trapped on islands between floodwaters.
© Rob Minson
Motorists and truckies are trapped on islands between floodwaters.
Emergency services in Western Australia's north are working to evacuate dozens of people from floods in the Gascoyne region.

Operations were underway today to rescue around 40 people who became stranded in and around Minilya, about 120 kilometres north of Carnarvon.

A tropical low, previously expected to become WA's first cyclone of the season, dumped hundreds of millimetres of rain in the state's north last week, leading to flooding over major roads.


Truck driver Rob Minson was airlifted to safety by an RAC helicopter this morning, more than 36 hours after he became stranded on a patch of dry land along with three others.

"It was basically Gilligan's Island," he said.

"We were in the middle of nowhere."



Local helicopter operator Justin Borg yesterday saved two women who were stranded with their vehicles near Minilya.

"They were pulled up between two bodies of water on the highway, on a piece of dry land, and the water just rose and rose," he said.

"It overcame one motor vehicle which we flew over. We could just see the roof sticking out of the water.

"Further up the road there was another vehicle with two ladies on board."

The Department of Fire and Emergency services (DFES) also sent a helicopter from Perth to Minilya via Karratha this morning.

The Bureau of Meteorology said the tropical low is weakening as it moves south.

Both the Bureau of Meteorology and DFES said people needed to remain cautious of rising river levels and floods.

Justin Borg surveys a car swamped by floods
© Coral Coast Helicopter Services
Justin Borg surveys a car swamped by floods on the North West Coastal Highway.
Main Roads 'followed proper procedure'

Mr Minson said while he was grateful for the work of emergency services, he felt more could have been done by Main Roads WA to keep people safe.

He said Main Roads personnel were at the Minilya Roadhouse on Thursday morning, but were not proactive in closing roads.

Mr Minson said they eventually became stranded themselves.

Main Roads spokesperson Dean Roberts confirmed staff did become stranded at the roadhouse and they followed proper procedure and closed the North West Coastal Highway on Wednesday evening.

A truck trapped on an island in floods on the North West Coastal Highway, north of Carnarvon.
© Rob Minson
A truck trapped on an island in floods on the North West Coastal Highway, north of Carnarvon.
Government flood response 'worrying'

Helicopter pilot Justin Borg said he was also frustrated with the pace of government response to the emergency.

Mr Borg said he wanted to fly out again immediately after the initial rescue to reach more vehicles trapped by rising waters.

He said he spent most of the day on a phone call to the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) office in Perth seeking permission.

DFES Midwest-Gascoyne Superintendent Craig Smith said Mr Borg was not allowed to complete further rescues because his helicopter was piston-engined.

He said DFES policy was to use turbine-powered vehicles, which were deemed to be safer.

Mr Smith said there was no threat to lives, so it was safe to wait overnight for a DFES-approved chopper to arrive from Perth.

"The situation was not life threatening, so therefore the policy was applied," he said.

"We closed it based on the best information and advice at the time," he said.