Sandy Willcott at the edge of her mining claim on the morning of March 17, which backs onto Retreats Creek at Graves Hill Road.
Sandy Willcott at the edge of her mining claim on the morning of March 17, which backs onto Retreats Creek at Graves Hill Road.

WATCH: Residents ‘stranded’ at mining claim amid major flood

A small community living on Sapphire mining claims have been stranded following the rapid rise of Retreat Creek on Wednesday morning.

More than 200mm of rain fell in the catchment surrounding the tourist area of Sapphire Gemfields overnight causing major flooding around the area.

Central Highlands Regional Council Mayor Kerry Hayes said Retreat Creek, between the Capricorn Highway and the town of Sapphire, peaked at 9.8 metres early Wednesday.

“The SES conducted one swift-water rescue, however I have been advised that everyone is safe,” Mr Hayes said.

“At this stage, we have to wait until the water recedes enough to get into the area to inspect the situation, which I do not expect to be for at least a couple of hours.”

READ: Sapphire residents told to move to higher ground

Local resident Sandy Willcott lives with her husband and two dogs at a mining claim on Graves Hill Rd, southwest of the Sapphire township.

The couple’s property backs on to Retreat Creek, which they watched rise rapidly throughout the morning.

“We’re stranded and we can’t go anywhere except up Graves Hill,” she said.

“It’s a little scary. We could be in trouble but we’re prepared to evacuate.”

Mrs Willcott said she woke at midnight to pouring rain, thunder and lightning. The rain gauge was already full at 130mm when she checked it at 3am on Wednesday, March 17.

While she said the Graves Hill warning siren didn’t activate, she received a text message from council at 4am, with a flood warning notice.

She said one of the claims right on the bank had gone completely under and while no other houses had been affected at 9am, one car had gone under.

Community members were rallying to support each other, including a family with a baby and young children.

READ: Sapphire residents awake to warning sirens at 3am

Mr and Mrs Willcott moved to the mining claim in 2013 to enjoy the slow, peaceful lifestyle.

She said it was hard to believe stories of the 2010 floods, but after this morning they had no doubt of how quickly it occurred.

“We have an idea now. It came up so fast,” she said.

“We got like a yearly rainfall in one day.”

At 9am Mrs Willcott said the rain had stopped but the river was still flowing quickly.

“The Bureau of Meteorology is expecting more rain to fall in the area this evening, so we urge anyone in the area to stay tuned to the local ABC radio for updates and follow instructions from emergency services personnel,” Mr Hayes said.

“As always, if it’s flooded forget it, don’t drive through flood water.”

Visit the Central Highlands Emergency Management Dashboard for more information.


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