The sole supermarket in Walgett, in NSW’s north, has been gutted by fire, a significant blow to a community already dealing with drought.
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The town of Walgett in northern New South Wales has lost its primary source of food, after the local IGA supermarket was gutted by fire yesterday.
NSW Fire and Rescue said the IGA building has been completely destroyed by the blaze, which had been burning since early this morning.
There were no reports of injuries, but it's understood an adjoining school was evacuated.
Local Di Kelly told the ABC the IGA was the 'hub' of the town.
"It was a place where everybody came together and particularly during the drought it was a really good thing to have," she said.
The fire now means locals will have to travel some 80 kilometres to the nearest alternate supermarket.
Walgett Shire Council mayor Manuel Martinez said the incident will create 'a lot of havoc' in the short term.
"These little communities suffer so much and when you've got to travel 80km or 110km to the nearest shopping centre, just to get your basics, it's a real blow," he said.
This is the second time in six years the local supermarket has been destroyed by fire. Last time, the town was left without one for almost a year after a separate blaze.
A tough hit for a town battling drought
It's a devastating incident for the 6,000-strong community, who are already dealing with the ongoing effects of drought.
Keepit Dam, which sits at the top of the local Namoi River system, sits at just 0.9 per cent capacity. When full, it can hold a body of water 80 per cent the size of Sydney Harbour.
In December, the ABC reported both of the town's rivers had effectively dried up.
It's understood Walgett ran out of water last summer and now depends on bore water and water that's trucked in.
A 'sobering' assessment from the Murray-Darling Basin Authority earlier this month warned the dry conditions would continue for the remainder of 2019.
Recent rains have brought some relief to the town, but it remains on level three water restrictions.
Walgett Council implements emergency resourcing plans
Di Kelly said Walgett is a 'resilient' community.
We are all made of tough stuff. And everyone does support one another and comes together.
As discussions for a new supermarket continue, Walgett Shire Council has announced plans to ensure supplies of basic food and necessities in the town.
Local newsagents, service stations and cafes have all agreed to stock larger supplies of milk, bread and other essentials.
The council is also looking at establishing a temporary grocery store site.
A bus service will also run this Saturday from Walgett to the IGA at Coonamble, 115 kilometres away.
Several fundraising efforts are now also underway, but donors are being urged to ensure the funds are sent to local community groups.