Air Force Operation to Relieve Food Shortage in Outback Australia After Severe Flooding

By Steve Milne
Steve Milne
Steve Milne
Steve is an Australian reporter based in Sydney covering sport, the arts, and politics. He is an experienced English teacher, qualified nutritionist, sports enthusiast, and amateur musician. Contact him at
January 31, 2022Updated: February 1, 2022

The first flight of a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) food resupply operation landed in the South Australian outback town of Coober Pedy on Monday after flooding severed all road access to the town last week.

A series of flights are to bring 20 tonnes of essential food goods to the flood-stricken town, which is situated 846 kilometers (526 miles) northwest of Adelaide, has a population of around 2,500 and is famous for producing around 90 percent of the world’s opals.

This comes after severe weather and major flooding in the northern areas of the state resulted in major transport routes being cut off, including the Stuart Highway, which services Coober Pedy from the north and south, South Australia’s State Emergency Service (SASES) reported.

SA Police Commissioner and State Coordinator, Grant Stevens, said there has been substantial damage to rail and road infrastructure over the past few days, which is threatening food security in some areas of South Australia, the Northern Territory and Western Australia.

“A declaration of a Major Emergency will ensure a coordinated, state-approach to ensure food security and provide support if required by isolated communities.’’

At a press conference on Monday, Premier Steven Marshall said he was delighted that the RAAF planes were heading to Coober Pedy to deliver emergency supplies.

“It’s a real collective effort to support these people who’ve been cut off by these incredible floods,” he said.

The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) has warned it’s likely there will be more extreme rain events in South Australia over the next couple of days, with many parts of the northern pastoral areas expected to receive between 50 and 100mm of rain each day.

“This is going to put extreme pressure on the tenuous situation we already have,” Marshall said.

Chief Officer of the South Australian State Emergency Service, Chris Beattie, said that SASES volunteers have responded to more than 700 incidents over the past week, but are ready to respond if the weather escalates again.

“SASES State Control Centre remains fully activated and we are working closely with police and local council officers through the Zone Emergency Support Teams,’’ Beattie said.

“With many outback roads closed including the Stuart Highway at Glendambo, we ask people to please avoid travel in these areas while roads are flooded.”

He added that he was pleased to hear that road freight has recommenced to the Northern Territory using an alternate route that was approved by the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator.

As well as roads being cut off, rail routes have also been impacted, with 18 breaks in state rail corridors, resulting in no trains from South Australia to the Northern Territory or Western Australia.

Beattie said that the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) is assessing and coordinating repairs to the track, and at this stage, restoration is expected to be complete by mid February.