Bendethera rescue: Baby among 41 campers stranded

1.20pm, Friday, January 8: An SES spokesman said crews at the Bendethera site report the water level had not fallen significantly overnight. Crews are likely to ferry more food across to 41 stranded campers, including an eight-month-old baby, on Saturday.

Incident controller Ashley Sullivan said Lifesaver 23 landed at the command post on the Moruya side of the flooded Deua River on Thursday and collected emergency services crews from other agencies and supplies.

They were flown to the campsite and Lifesaver 23 returned for more medical supplies and food to Moruya.

Mr Sullivan said NSW Police rescue team used a drone in a surveillance flight of the area.

On Friday, SES crews on the Moruya side of the river are monitoring the water level and maintaining contact with the campers via UHF radio.

Inflatable rescue rafts may be used on Saturday to deliver more essential supplies.

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Supplies and satellite phones, including nappies for an eight-month-old baby, were delivered to stranded campers on January 7, offering more comfort as they wait for flood waters to recede.

The State Emergency Services’s Illawarra South Coast team has led the effort to help the group of 41 people stranded when floodwaters rose at Bendethera on Sunday night and throughout Monday.

Groups at several sites in the remote Deua National Park have been cut off since, with relatives raising the alarm on Tuesday. 

Five children were initially reported stranded with the groups, but three children were confirmed today.

“NSW SES, NSW Illawarra Police Rescue Squad, NSW Police Force and NSW Ambulance have been able to reach the sites,” an SES spokesman said.

“Lifesaver 23 has visited the sites, checking on campers welfare and restocking with food, nappies, medicines and water. 

“All campers are safe and well and the SES will assist in helping the campers head home over the next couple of days.”

The rescue effort included combined crews from the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the SES, who travelled from Moruya on Wednesday by road to a flooded crossing.

They established radio contact with the campers and confirmed no one was hurt.

The effort recommenced on Thursday morning, with crews meeting at the crossing at about 11am.

2.45pm: The rescue helicopter has returned to Moruya base for medical supplies but reports all campers safe and well. 

1.05pm: A spokesman says Lifesaver 23 is flying to various camp sites, checking on the welfare of campers and restocking sites with food. 

NOON: Lifesaver 23 checking various campsites at Bendethera.

11.16am, Thursday, January 7: Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter has reported that Lifesaver 23 has landed at Bendethera, a remote site west of Moruya where 41 campers including a baby have been stranded for several days. 

9.40am, Thursday, January 7: Rescuers hope today to reach 41 campers stranded in the remote Bendethera Valley, west of Moruya, including a baby.

SES incident controller Ashley Sullivan said on Thursday, January 7, a total of 41 campers were now confirmed at several sites in the Deua National Park campground.

He said six on the western side of the Bedethera campground could possibly leave, however a drone and specialist flood equipment would used to help emergency crews cross the creek to the site.

“An eight-month-old baby is known to be with one of the groups,” Mr Sullivan said. 

He said an SES crew would again today attempt to cross the creek to reach the site, after crews assessed the scene yesterday and made radio contact with campers.

Cloud cover prevented the Moruya-based Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter from reaching the site yesterday, but conditions today are better.

“NSW Police Rescue and Ambulance Special Opeations, along with NPWS are all working with the SES to establish face-to-face contact with the campers,” Mr Sullivan said.

“Weather conditions are favorable for Westpac to fly and they will attend the SES command post in the national park at 11.00 hours today. 

“We have resources including satellite communications, drones and specialist flood rescue operators and equipment to enable us to access the river.

“We will be taking supplies including bread, milk and nappies to the campers today.

“At this stage, everyone is okay.”

6pm, Wednesday, January 6: The SES says ground crews were able to communicate with campers stranded at Bendethera, but could not cross a waterway to reach them. It has been confirmed more than 21 people are stranded, at three or four campsites.

“Everyone is okay; wet, cold, tired and want to get out, but okay,” SES incident controller Ashey Sullivan said.

“Tomorrow (Thursday) ground troops will head in and hopefully the weather will clear enough so we can fly in and have face-to-face contact.”

3.50pm: SES crews have reached the Bendethera area, incident controller Ashley Sullivan said.

“Our ground crews are at one of the river crossings and have made radio contact with the group,” he said shortly after 3pm.

2pm: The SES has confirmed that five children are among the group of 21 stranded in the flooded Bendethera area.

Incident controller Ashley Sullivan said the group was safe and on high ground, but running out of food and fuel.

Road crews trying to reach the area are driving on forest roads in wet conditions.

1.50pm: The Moruya-based rescue helicopter remains grounded in poor weather and has been unable to fly specialist paramedics and an SES swift water rescue officer to the remote Bendethera campsite.

SES crews and NPWS officers are attempting to drive to the area from Moruya.

NOON: Cloud cover remained too thick on the morning of Wednesday, January 6 for a rescue helicopter to ascertain the welfare of stranded campers in Bendethera, west of Moruya, but another attempt will be made soon.

Illawarra South Coast State Emergency Services incident controller Ashley Sullivan said the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter was unable to see the campers after flying over the site they are understood to be trapped at.

Mr Sullivan said another attempt would be made after lunch, Wednesday, as cloud cover reduced and an attempt would be made to land with NSW Ambulance special operations paramedics and an SES swift water rescue officer.

Poor visibility and treacherous conditions on Tuesday prevented rescue crews reaching the site where 21 people are understood to be stranded after floodwaters rose on in the Deua River catchment overnight on Sunday and throughout Monday.

He said a farmer in the area on Tuesday night made contact via UHF radio with the campers, who said they were isolated and running out of food.

Mr Sullivan said family members alerted the SES on Tuesday morning that they had no contact with the campers.

“They were concerned for their welfare and that they were perhaps running out of food,” Mr Sullivan said.

“I believe some of the campers, a couple of different families, were meant to be coming out yesterday (Tuesday).

Mr Sullivan said ground rescue crews had attempted to reach the site from the west, coming from Braidwood, and from the east, from Moruya.

Specialist crews were involved, including an SES flood rescue team from the Braidwood end.

“They are specially trained flood rescue guys who can operate in that environment,” he said.

“We also have NSW ambulance special operations crews.”

He said the rescue helicopter tried twice on Tuesday to reach the campers, but cloud cover made it too dangerous.

“They could not get anywhere near it,” he said.

He said a farmer nearby had on Tuesday night made UHF radio contact with the campers and had been told they were isolated and running out of food.

“We had a phone call late last night from one of the farmers in the area,” Mr Sullivan said.

More details as they come to hand.

11am: The Moruya rescue helicopter is flying to Bendethera with an SES swift water specialist to help campers cut off in flooding.

The Moruya Westpace Life Saver Rescue Helicopter is on its way to Bendethera after campers were stranded due to flooding. FILE PICTURE.

The Moruya Westpace Life Saver Rescue Helicopter is on its way to Bendethera after campers were stranded due to flooding. FILE PICTURE.

It is understood 21 campers are stranded at the remote site, west of Moruya.

The Westpace Life Saver Rescue Helicopter has picked up an SES swift water rescue officer from Merimbula Airport and is in on route to Bendethera.

General manager Stephen Leahy said the crew was expected to arrive at about 11.25am on Wednesday, January 6.

He said the Illawarra-South Coast State Emergency Services team was coordinating the response.

The helicopter crew has been asked to assess the situation and check on the welfare of campers before a plan was decided on.

More details as they come to hand.

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