The big rebuild has begun in central Queensland with the army joining efforts in the mop up of the war zone-like destruction left by Cyclone Marcia.
Stunned Yeppoon, Rockhampton and Bileola residents were left to tidy up the mess on Saturday as the storm unleashed its fury before turning into a tropical low which swamped southern Queensland.
Almost 550 houses were damaged and 60,000 properties left without power on the Capricorn Coast region, with the worst in Yeppoon, which copped the brunt of the category five blow.
It’s expected to take several weeks for buildings to be repaired and rebuilt and also several days before hundreds of Ergon and Energex workers can switch power back on in central Queensland.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk visited both Rockhampton and Yeppoon on Saturday afternoon to assess the damage and meet the mayors of both towns and local disaster management teams.
“What we are seeing here is complete and utter devastation,” she said. “Both mayors are telling me is that they fundamentally need more help.
“We now need the army to come in and assist.
“These are resilient people. They have been through the worst of the worst.
“But now, we are by their side and we will rebuild these communities.”
As well as thousands of State Emergency Service volunteers, the Australian Defence Force is deploying up to 350 soldiers from Townsville with another 350 on stand-by from the ADF’s Brisbane base.
Rockhampton disaster management committee chairman Tony Williams said it was far too early to know the extent of the damage bill.
“It’s going to be massive – at this stage it’s hard to put a figure on it,” he said.
Flooding in Bileola and Gympie, plus 56 schools, is among the damage list.
While there were no reports of deaths or serious injuries, there had been grave fears for three teenage boys on Saturday afternoon who were reported missing after playing near Sunshine Coast floodwaters.
After almost three hours of frantic searching, the youths were finally found near the area they’d been last seen clinging to a tree in a rising Beerwah creek.
Police immediately put out a stern public warning saying “it would seem that the simplest of messages are often the hardest to receive”.
“Flooded creeks and rivers, fast-flowing waterways and watercourses and churned up oceans are dangerous places to play,” the police statement read.
Residents in the small towns of Jambin and Goovigen also received a major scare when Callide Creek broke its banks after automatic controls opened the Callide Dam gates late Friday night.
More than 20 residents were evacuated from the local school in the middle of the night by helicopter.
Freakish waterspouts also delivered minor damage on the Sunshine Coast and Marcia also produced thumping surf for board riders on the southern Gold Coast.
But there was much relief that flooding expected in south-east Queensland was far less than expected.
Brisbane Lord Mayor Graham Quirk praised residents for being well prepared for the deluge, shown by 190,000 sandbags collected from council depots.
“People have heard the call and they’ve taken a `it’s better to be safe than sorry’ approach,” he said.