News State QLD News The ‘forgotten’ town devastated by Cyclone Marcia

The ‘forgotten’ town devastated by Cyclone Marcia

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The main road into Byfield, a town of 500 north of Yeppoon in central Queensland, was inaccessible for many kilometres after trees were stripped bare leaving vegetation and debris strewn on the road.

However, Byfield locals said the worst part, nearly three days on from the cyclone, was that there had been no help or contact from the authorities.

The town remains cut off from the outside world, with no power, water, phones or other communication.

Small Qld towns reel from Cyclone Marcia
Marcia leaves her impression

An ABC news crew was forced to walk several kilometres today to speak to locals, with several saying it was the first contact they had made with the outside world since the cyclone struck early on Friday.

Residents John Petty and Peter Rose had been checking on residents over the last few days, as well as trying to clear the town’s main road of trees with their own chainsaws.

Mr Petty said he was at home when the cyclone came through.

“My house fared fairly, but it was terrifying – there was stuff going absolutely flat along the ground,” he said.

“There were branches and trees [that] just snapped.”

Mr Rose said he checked on several neighbours, including one woman who lived by herself.

“There was no access [to her place] – I walked back along the road last night in the dark to get back, and I had to physically climb through everything to get back,” he said.

“I’m going to try and do something for her today because [the town] seems to be forgotten in this part of the world, even though it was the first part that was actually hit in this storm.”

Telstra emergency phone ‘doesn’t work’

Willy Newman has been stranded in her house since the cyclone hit on Friday.

Although her house was OK, her garden and driveway had been blocked by debris for three days and she still had no power or phone.

“The Telstra landline I kept on for emergencies – it doesn’t work – so I’ve been paying all this money for a phone that doesn’t work in emergencies,” she said.

She said before the storm, her property had lush rainforest all around it, as well as fruit trees and a perfumed garden.

“[My property] was a wall of green,” she said.

“Well, I’ve got a sea view now … I can see the national park now – that mountain – I didn’t know it was there.

“I’ve been on the point of tears a bit, but I’ll clean it up.”

Ms Newman said she had also been walking down to check on her neighbour about 10 minutes away, as “she’s not been too good”.

Mr Petty and Mr Rose are helping Ms Newman to clear her driveway so she can get out of her house.

‘It’s just like a bomb’s hit the place’

Meanwhile, Jean and Warren O’Leary own a luxury rainforest ranch at Byfield, which has been ravaged by the storm.

Ms O’Leary said her business had 10 weddings booked for this year, with one in just two weeks.

She said they would have to build up the business from scratch again.

“We’ve promoted the rainforest and it was absolutely pristine – we’ve got weddings booked this year, and we just don’t know what’s going to happen,” she said.

“I’d get up every morning and it used to be a dream – we’d walk outside and it was just a magical place.

“I just walk out now and just see the destruction, and it’s just like a bomb’s hit the place.”

Byfield residents clear the debris scattered by Cyclone Marcia. Photo: ABC

She said a lot of Byfield locals were disappointed there had been no contact or help from authorities, despite the town being the first to be hit.

“The community’s been fabulous – they’ve helped each other,” she said.

“We couldn’t get out of our property until yesterday afternoon because there were trees across the driveway and we couldn’t get across the front gate – we can get into town now.”

The Byfield State School will also remain closed for some time until it is cleaned up.

Resident Tony Cook was at the school to help.

“It’s amazing – we’ve lived here for 15 years and it’s always been a lush, green area – lots of trees,” he said.

“To see it now, it brings tears to your eyes for a lot of people.

“You can see stuff on the horizon that you could never see before because the trees used to cover it up.

“It’s like a bushfire has been through – without the blackness – everything is gone, the big, beautiful trees are gone, leaves are gone,” he said.

Locals run on adrenaline as exhaustion kicks in

Renton Boashopric was house-sitting his parents’ house, who were on holiday overseas.

Mr Boashopric said he was inside the house when a huge tree fell on the house.

“We copped the full brunt of Cyclone Marcia here in Byfield – it came through here pretty hard and pretty furious,” he said.

“We were fearful and it got a lot worse after [the tree fell].

“This morning the exhaustion kicked in – up until then we were running on adrenaline.”

He said his parents were on their way home and that he had not yet been able to get access to his own house since the storm.

Mr Boashopric said he told his parents to be prepared.

“This isn’t a one-week clean-up – this is a six-month job ahead here,” he said.


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