The hazardous chemical copper concentrate has spilled from a derailed freight train into the Edith River.DARWIN – Top End residents are being warned of crocodiles in their waterways after bursting rivers wreaked “significant damage” to the Northern Territory’s transport network.

In an emergency message from the NT government, residents were being warned yesterday not to swim or wade in case they came across the monster reptiles.

“Flooded waterways you don’t swim in . . . flooded waterways should be avoided at all costs,” Northern Territory Chief Minister Paul Henderson said.

“Crocodiles are very active at this time of year.”

Heavy rains from ex-tropical Cyclone Grant have swollen the Cullen and Edith rivers to dangerous levels, flooding the Stuart Highway and damaging its bridges north of Katherine.

Mr Henderson flew over the flood-ravaged site yesterday and said floods had caused “significant structural damage” to the road and rail network.

However, he hoped the major thoroughfare, which links Darwin to Katherine, would be reopened within 24 to 48 hours.

“The Edith River low-level bridge and also the Cullen Bridge have stood up very well to the flooding,” he said.

“Traffic is already open one way and we are hoping to have both lanes open later this afternoon.”

Meanwhile he confirmed that the hazardous chemical copper concentrate had spilled from a derailed freight train into the Edith River.

Investigations are under way into the derailment, which happened 40 kilometres north of Katherine early on Tuesday morning.

“There has been significant damage to the railway at the Edith River Bridge,” he said.

“We can see that the (rail) bridge has actually lost one of its structures.”

Rail line operator Genesee and Wyoming Australia said it planned to move the rear portion of the train back to Katherine.

“It is still too early to determine the full extent of the incident or how long it will take before the track is reopened,” managing director Bert Easthope said yesterday.

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