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Motorist clings to tree for hours after car swept into Alice Springs' Todd River

Wednesday November 10, 2021 - 14:00 AEDT
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The man was clinging to a tree in the Todd River for six-and-half hours before being rescued. - ABC

A man has been rescued from the rapidly flowing Todd River after clinging to a tree for six-and-a-half hours after his car was swept off the Wills Terrace causeway on Wednesday.

St John Ambulance regional manager Paul Bellman said the 33-year-old man was rescued just before midday.

His rescuers tethered him to a rope and pulled him onto a footbridge. 

Mr Bellman said the motorist was in a good condition but was suffering from exhaustion, fatigue and sustained some minor scrapes.

He walked to an awaiting ambulance and was taken to Alice Springs hospital.

Acting Assistant Commissioner for regional and remote policing Craig Laidlaw said officers were in the process of closing the road from the western side of the Todd River when the man decided to drive his vehicle into the water from the east about 5am.

"I have to say to people, when the roads are flooded, be very careful. If you're unsure, don't cross if it's flooded, forget, it wasn't a good choice," he said.

"[The water has] swept his vehicle off the road.

"He's been able to self extract from the vehicle, and he's been stuck against a tree where he's able to stay safe until we were able to get there providing with assistance."

Emergency services launched a tinny into the river as a precautionary measure which ultimately was not needed.

"They had a zip line setup, and they were able to bring him to safety as the water level started to drop," Acting Assistant Commissioner Craig Laidlaw said.

He defended the time it took to rescue the man.

"We were patient so that we can ensure everybody's safety.

"We don't want to rush into these things and put him at danger, put any of the rescuers in danger."

Acting Assistant Commissioner Laidlaw said no charges had been laid at this stage.

"Obviously, we'll be reviewing today's incident," he said.

River flowing after heavy rain

Earlier in the day, Ian Carlton regional manager for Northern Territory emergency services said the man had spent several hours in the water.

Mr Carlton said the Todd River in flood was dramatically different from yesterday when it was just a little trickle.

"With the 80 to 90 mm of rain that we've had overnight in the upper catchment, it's coming down and it's flowing really fast," Mr Carlton said.

"We're expecting a little bit more rain and although it's easing at times, there's potential for more rain and thunderstorms to develop over the afternoon.

"With the amount of rain that we've had up in the top end of the catchment, it's currently sitting at around 2 metres but expected to peak sometime today at around the moderate flood level," he said.

For emergency help in floods, storms or cyclones call NT Emergency Services on 132 500.


© ABC 2021

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