Thursday, March 23, 2006


The Butcher Hero Who Just Wanted To Feed The Hungry

It began with a local Innisfail butcher. His cold rooms started getting warm after Cyclone Larry cut the power to his shop, so he found some big barbecues and began cooking his entire stock of steaks, chops, sausages and rissoles for the very hungry locals. More food arrived with the hundreds of volunteers who poured into the area on Tuesday, more barbecues were set up, the queues of locals got longer. Now many Innisfail residents reckon the local butcher is a hero. Nobody asked him to start cooking, he just did it, and he was reluctant on Tuesday to tell anyone his name. Hopefully he will do so soon, so he can be properly thanked, and honoured.

Volunteers Power Through 48 Hours Without Sleep

There were so many people who needed help with getting food, water, baby supplies, hygiene products, that many of the volunteers didn't sleep for 48 hours straight. By the time, most of the first shift found a dry spot to catch up on some sleep, more than 3000 people had been fed and clothed.

'Handpicked By Larry' Fruit Boxes For The Hungry

Local farmes have donated the now very expensive bananas and avocados, the last from the region for the rest of 2006. Keeping up with the good humour and dry wit that has been an international talking point of the rescue and recovery effort, some of the farmers scrawled a message on the boxes of rare fruit : 'Handpicked By Larry'.

Power Still Out For 20,000 As Floodwaters Keep Rising

As the rains continue, the floodwaters keep rising, not just in the rivers, but in the new ponds created in the midle of fields and football ovals. All the flooding and rains are playing havoc with efforts to get the power back on.

As of midnight, more than 10,000 people in Cairns were still without power, as were another 10,500 on the Atherton Tablelands.

Babinda Gets A Visit From The Prime Minister, But Remains Isolated

It was raining when the Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, visited the small North Queensland town of Babinda. He was there to meet with banana farmers who had lost their entire crops and to announce aid packages worth more than $100 million.

But now the town of Babinda is quickly being cut off from the rest of the world as the floodwaters rise, and this means no electricity can be restored to the region. Volunteers are trying to get in with supplies in boats.

Body Recovered From Storm-Smashed Area

The first body has been recovered. The man, aged in his 70s, was found next to a caravan in the Johnson Shire. Police believe he may have died during Cyclone Larry. The cause of death has not yet been established, but there were no visible physical injuries. Police are thinking natural causes or a heart attack.

Relief Packages Could Climb Towards $1 Billion

The Prime Minister and Queensland Premier, Peter Beattie, quickly drew up plans on Monday night and Tuesday morning for aid and relief packages worth an immediate $100million, but the overall amount needed for total recovery, rescue and rebuilding, as well as grants to help farmers get their farms back in business, could climb towards $1 billion. Storm losses to banana and sugar cane farmers alone are now estimated at more than $320 million.

Innisfail's Hungry And Homeless Queue All Day In Rain To Get Emergency Cash

Young families and elderly people were among the Innisfail residents forced to stand in long queues all day outside the small town hall, and when they were told emergency cash payments were not yet ready to be handed out, the anger and frustration boiled over.

Premier Peter Beattie copped an earful from one elderly man, before he broke down and was comforted by Beattie, who told the media he understood the pressure locals were under.

"There is enormous emotional pressure on people, there are going to be a lot of angry frustrated people out there".

What made the waiting worse was the bureacracy. Still shocked and traumatised by the cyclone that had them pinned down in their homes, and under their homes, for more than four hours, as roofs and parts of their homes were carried away, the battered residents were forced to queue up twice. The first time was to get some documentation. Then they had to queue again to get a cash payment.

One mother, Christine Stone, has six children, and she waited in the queues for more than 10 hourws.

And the rain kept on falling. 200 to 300 millimetres were recorded for the area in just 24 hours, causing even more flooding that threatened to block the highway.

(Factoids sourced from,,,au and talkback callers on Radio JJJ, ABC Radio and 2GB in Sydney)