Saturday, April 01, 2006


The true and total devastation and the rapid pace of recovery becomes crystal clear in this detail report from the (Queensland) State Disaster Management Group :

"Approximately 12500 sq kms were affected by Tropical Cyclone Larry from, Mareeba in the North to Tully in the south and west to beyond Mt Garnet.

"Significant damage occurred to houses, businesses, infrastructure, crops and state forests.
TC Larry travelled almost 450 kms inland to around Croydon before being downgraded to a rain depression. It took 13 hours to travel inland.

The pace of the recovery and rebuilding effort is also stunning, for all the right reasons :

"More than 1600 houses have been tarped.

There are approximately 617 State Emergency Service volunteers, Rural Fire Brigade volunteers, Queensland Ambulance Service, Queensland Fire and Rescue Service and
Department of Emergency Services personnel currently working in North Queensland on cyclone relief projects. "

All the roads are now open again, but smaller roads inland and on the coast are not in tiptop condition and have eroded.

Passenger train services to Cairns are now running again., same goes for the freight services.

A total of 156 schools in the region were affected by Cyclone Larry, and all have reopened.

Electricity is going back on faster every day, but a few hundred still remain on generators. Hundreds more homes judged too severely damaged will not be reconnected.

The water supply is coming back, but pipe integrity, pressure and hygiene problems still remained (as of mid-last week) at Innsifail, El Arish, Kurramine, Silkwood, Bingil and Mourilyn.

Expect that there have been significant changes to those figures above since this report was issued.

The power is now back on for all of the Innisfail CBD.

Most mobile phone services are back on and satellite phones are getting out to rural residents.

Here's some impressive figures from the initial response (all quotes are from the State Department Management Group report) :

Emergency response primary resources

Atherton Shire
· 200 personnel
· 30 trucks
· 18 bobcats, loaders and backhoes
· 50 chainsaws
· 10 generators

Mareeba Shire
· 30 personnel including 16 QAS paramedics
· 5 trucks
· 5 backhoes

Herberton Shire
· 120 staff
· 63 vehicles
· 21 backhoes, loaders, excavators.
· 5 generators
· 15 chainsaws

Eacham Shire
· 130 personnel
· Majority of council equipment being used

The Australian Defence Force deployed more than 400 personnel and thousnads of tonnes of equipment. And they did it in a few days.

Water is now available in most townships, but some are on limited supplies between certain hours.

The majority of damaged premises have been assisted

In the district, 94 farms have no power supply, with 33 working on generators.

Despite the damage, it's amazing what was pulled together and and deployed and achieved in less than two weeks.

Now here's the true scope of the Cyclone Larry destruction :

· 50% damage to homes
· 35% damage to private industry
· 25% government buildings

· 99% homes have lost roofs or suffered structural damage

· 15% homes damaged

· roof damage to 40% of homes

· 30% homes damaged
· damage to 15% industry

· 30% homes damaged
· No damage to industry

· 30% homes damaged
· 20% damage to industry
· 45% damage to caravan park

· 20% homes damaged
· 20% damage to industry

· 30% damage to homes
· 50% damage to industry

· 70% damage to homes

When you look at those figures above, as bad as the damage to homes is, you have to remember that some places like Mission Beach rely to the greatest extent on the tourist trade to stay alive.
Now, the next time you walk around your neighbourhood, imagine one out of every three homes without a roof, imagine one out of every five local shops and business being damaged and in need of repair and rebuilding, and imagine more than half the local hotels or motels or accomodation being shut down down for weeks, or months, to come.

That's how devastating this cyclone was to small towns in Far North Queensland. We still don't have full reports for all of the rural areas.

The people of Far North Queensland don't need any blankets or cans of food or raincoats (there were a few donated). They need cash to rebuild their homes, their lives and their businesses. There is money coming from the State and Federal governments, but not all of it is coming in one big lump. It will be drip-fed out and it will take time to reach those who need it the most. You can get money to those who need it quicker by donating cash via these services :

The Cyclone Larry Appeal on 1800 150 411

And they still need registered tradespeople who want to get up there and do some good and vital work for people who really need it. If that's you, call this number now : 1800 631 328.



Photograph by Kevin Cheatham, taken in Gallo Park on the Atherton Tablelands.

It's almost two weeks since Cyclone Larry roared through hundreds of square kilometres of far North Queensland, and while the farmers are still trying to work out whether or not it's worth starting over, towns like Innisfail are quickly returning to normal, at least on the surface.

Innisfail is regarded as the worst affected township. The public schools have now opened back up, the high school is being rebuilt, most of the shops along the main street are open for business again and the emergency repair part of the recovery is just about over. Even the local theatre is staging a new play.

The AM program reports
that some farmers who lost their entire crops, sheds, equipment are not prepared to begin the long road back to what they had before the cyclone struck. The damage is too severe, the shock of the loss too great.

AM : "Across cyclone-hit north Queensland, the rural sector is reeling. Ninety-five per cent of Australia's banana crop is destroyed. Cane growers have suffered significant losses. So much so that one north Queensland mill, damaged in the cyclone, won't be needed this crushing season.
Smaller properties too are in trouble."

Local business Charlie Ward told AM, "We have a small nursery business up in Upper Dowradgi (phonetic) in the rural area, about five acres of land and we sell foliage to the florists, to the Sydney and Melbourne markets, and sell plants. And our nursery's totally destroyed, there's nothing left. We probably won't get an income for about 12 months."

Macadamia grower Garrick Smith told AM the crop he lost took ten long years to grow.

"It breaks your heart," he said. "Trees have actually blown apart, they've split apart and they've been ripped straight out of the ground. And it's quite devastating. I'd be prepared to try again, but I would have to have a lot of financial help. At my age, I just don't have the capital to go back into it by myself.

Dairy farming family the Maier's are prepared to rebuild, but only so they can sell their farm and get out.

"Everything is mess," Elizabeth Maier told AM, "We had heaps of trees falling, falling trees. We had blocked laneways. We have no fences anymore. Not one paddock was okay because all the trees fall on the fences, everything is broken. My husband really stressed, and he said, 'We fix up the place and we sell it, that's it.' Because he don't want to go through that again."

Go here for the full AM story.