Recovery after the storm

Cyclone Seroja crossed our coast at about 8.00pm on Sunday 11 April, beginning its destructive journey in Port Gregory, just south of Kalbarri. Winds of up to 170km/hr, the strongest recorded in more than 50 years, tore homes, businesses and trees apart, leaving behind masses of debris.

Coastal areas south of Kalbarri saw about 70 per cent of homes damaged. Residents huddled in bathtubs or hid in pantries and toilets. Yet, miraculously no-one was injured.

Even before the cyclone hit, the Uniting Church WA’s Disaster Relief and Community Recovery Working Group was preparing for the coming storm. Rev David Jackson, Convenor of the Working Group, was calling local congregations to ask how they were preparing and to establish a connection in case future involvement was needed. Those connections have proved invaluable.

“Our contacts are helping us ensure the effort we make is in the right area and that we don’t cut across areas that others are already doing very well,” David said. “We’re shaping our response around where there is no other help and where additional assistance is needed.”

One of those areas is helping farmers clear their land. Forecasted rain had triggered these farmers to sow their land, but with debris now covering their fields, they are unable to plant.

“They only have a small window in which they can plant after rain has fallen,” David said. “If they can’t sow their crops, they’re looking at 24 months without any income, so it’s an urgent state.”

Frontier Services has joined this effort, sending volunteers through their Outback Links program to assist farmers in the clean-up. Northampton Uniting Church has already established a line of credit at the local hardware store, allowing people to buy what they need to repair and restore their infrastructure.

The Disaster Relief and Community Recovery Working Group also joined the congregation in providing vouchers to the local fuel station for people to refuel their generators while their power was out.

Recovery for an event of this scale is long-term.

“Years, not months,” David said.

The clean-up is only phase one. And although clearing debris is urgent and necessary, David is already planning ahead.

“We will roll out the ‘Seasons of Growth’ program to help children, youth and adults process the trauma and loss they’ve experienced.

“Kids were cowering with parents screeching with terror at the storm. It will indelibly be imprinted on those kids’ minds for a long time.”

Support the Disaster Relief and Community Recovery Working Group by donating to the Uniting Church WA Disaster and Emergency Relief Fund. Send funds to the Uniting Church in Australia Property Trust (WA) – T&SP, BSB 036001, Account 698310, Reference WA Disaster Relief. Please also mention the congregation or name of donor.

To provide hands-on assistance, consider volunteering through Frontier Services Outback Links. Email outbacklinks@frontierservices.org for more information.

Mikaela Turner

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