Australian woman survives 12 days in outback after finding watering hole

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NT Police

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Tamra McBeath-Riley and her dog Raya had been on a drive to the outback

A woman rescued after 12 days stranded in Australia’s remote outback said she survived by eating biscuits and drinking from a watering hole.

Tamra McBeath-Riley, 52, was with two other people who became stranded when their car got stuck in a riverbed.

The group split up to get help. Ms McBeath-Riley was found near her car but her companions are still missing.

Police said they would be “severely dehydrated” after being stranded in the outback for 13 days.

‘It kept them alive’

Ms McBeath-Riley had set off with two others, Claire Hockridge and Phu Tran, on an afternoon drive from Alice Springs in the Northern Territory on 19 November.

They took Ms McBeath-Riley’s dog Raya, a female Staffordshire bull terrier, with them.

The group were travelling in remote territory just south of Alice Springs when they found themselves stuck in the bed of the Hugh River.

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Getty Images

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Alice Springs is one of the larger towns in the remote Northern Territory

Speaking to reporters outside a hospital in Alice Springs, Ms McBeath-Riley said the group had stayed by the car for around three days in an attempt to free it.

“We tried many times to try to get out, but just couldn’t get out, the river was just too large,” she said.

“During the day it’s just really hot so we dug ourselves under the car. At night [we] could sleep in the car.”

They used up all their supplies of water, as well as some iced vodkas, biscuits and beef noodles they had in the car.

They eventually found a watering hole, and boiled the water before sieving it through a shirt.

“It was still quite dirty, not hygienic water but it kept them alive,” NT Police Superintendent Pauline Vicary told the Australian Broadcasting Corps.

They eventually decided to split up to get help. Mr Tran and Ms Hockridge planned to walk towards the highway.

Ms McBeath-Riley stayed in the area, thinking her dog would not survive a long walk.

Northern Territory Police despatched helicopters to search for the trio. They eventually spotted Ms McBeath-Riley about 1.5km (0.9 miles) away from the car area after a local person reported seeing tyre tracks.

“She’s had a fairly traumatic period of time,” Supt Vicary said. “Sensibly she appears to have stayed where the water is and has been drinking that and that’s probably what kept her going.”

It is not clear if her dog was found along with her.

Ms McBeath-Riley was taken to hospital and treated for dehydration and exposure.

She said she had assumed her companions had already been found and that “to find out that’s not the case is worrying”.

Police are stepping up their search for the pair. Supt Vicary said officers had yet to begin searching the area by foot.

“Because of the terrain that they have gone missing in, and because we don’t have a particularly focused area, we are still doing the helicopters,” she told ABC.

“It’s quite a diverse terrain – there’s sandy dunes, there’s hard clay, there’s areas of dense trees but there is also rocks and ranges in the area as well.”

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