News State Northern Territory Clean-up to begin in NT

Clean-up to begin in NT

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Tropical Cyclone Lam has been downgraded to a category one storm, but the real work will begin this weekend as communities begin repairing and recovering.

Survey and rescue teams will fly to Warruwi community on Goulburn Island and Galiwinku on Elcho Island first thing on Saturday morning to do more extensive post-storm assessments.

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There have been so far no fatalities or serious injuries recorded in any community affected by Lam, police say.

At Galiwinku, home to up to 3000 people, the barge landing was damaged, there is no power or communications and there was significant damage to buildings, including six houses that were totally destroyed, said acting Police Commissioner Reece Kershaw.

Gapuwiyak in Arnhem Land experienced only minor damage, and local teams are trying to reconnect power, water and sewerage.

Ramingining’s court house and police buildings were damaged, while Milingimbi was proving difficult to contact. It could take another day or two to get a full assessment of damage from the local ranger.

Ramingining clinic manager Rhonda Golsby-Smith ended up with a coconut tree on her roof.

The community of about 1000 took the brunt of the storm, with the eye passing directly overhead at about 3am.

“I don’t think we realised we would be right in the centre of it; when we were tracking it yesterday it kept changing direction, and then when we realised it was coming, it was `oh my goodness’,” she told AAP.

“There were winds of 200km/h and we felt every last bit of that and more … a few times I was thinking, `something’s got to go here’.”

Chief Minister Adam Giles said schools in Nhulunbuy, Yirrkala and Maningrida would reopen on Monday, although it was too soon to say when other community schools would resume.

Not that that was a problem for the students of Warruwi, however.

The entire 426 person population was airlifted into Darwin on Thursday before Cyclone Lam hit, and on Friday morning all 74 school-age children were attending classes with their teachers at a local primary school.

Power remained on at Goulburn Island although water was turned off, and authorities have tentatively suggested that residents could be flown home as early as Monday.

It is remarkable that damage appears so far to be limited, given that there were 230km/h gusts tearing through communities where many buildings were not built to cyclone code.

There will be plenty of fallen trees and powerlines to keep authorities busy clearing up for days.

When asked if he was surprised at how little damage there appears to have been given the intensity of the storm, Mr Kershaw said it was lucky the cyclone crossed the coast during low tide rather than high tide.

As Lam continues to travel south through the Top End’s inland areas as a category one system, there is still a low chance of flooding in low-lying areas such as Katherine, he said.

Heavy rains will continue over central Top End over the weekend, and residents of affected communities were urged by emergency services not to go “sightseeing” as they could hinder relief efforts.

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