Weather Holiday town decimated after cyclone takes unusual path

Holiday town decimated after cyclone takes unusual path

seroja kalbarri
Richard Burges and his family sheltered in the ground level of their family's Kalbarri home as the cyclone ripped off part of the roof. Photo: Richard Burges
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Kalbarri has been devastated by ex-Tropical Cyclone Seroja with authorities estimating damage to about 70 per cent of the town’s buildings.

Northampton also bore the brunt of the cyclone, which left a trail of destruction in its wake when it slammed into WA’s mid-west coast on Sunday night.

Homes have been destroyed and more than 30,500 residents were left without power after the cyclone made landfall as a category three storm about 8pm, bringing wind gusts of up to 170km/h.

The police station, pub and caravan park all suffered extensive damage.

Homes have been left unliveable after the fast-moving storm tore roofs off houses and sent debris flying all over the town.

‘Like an atom bomb’

Richard Burges and his family sheltered in his parents’ home, which was “half destroyed”.

“We were upstairs and the wind was getting bad and the windows were blowing in a bit so we were putting towels in front of the doors,” he said.

“Seemed like an atom bomb went off.

“This crescendo of wind just exploded the glass sliding doors in our faces.

“Then while we were trying to get out of there, the roof ripped off.”

Mr Burges said his mother was wearing a moon boot and was moving slowly, and this might have saved them.

“The ceiling dropped in the stairwell so we were three seconds behind that.

“If we’d been a bit faster we would’ve been under the ceiling falling on us in the stairwell.

“It’s quite hardcore.”

Mr Burges and his wife and daughter sheltered with his parents in the middle of the house.

“For about 40 minutes it was quite terrifying … and after a while it just seemed to back off and then it kept backing off all the way.”

He said destruction was widespread.

He said roofs had ended up in other people’s yards and power poles had been snapped in half.

“I found a dinghy seat in my driveway this morning.”

cyclone seroja
Ella Curic had just finished dinner when the neighbour’s roof came through window as Cyclone Serjoa hit Kalbarri. Photo: Ella Curic

Thieves loot electronics store

Peter Brown of Mitchell and Brown Retravision in Geraldton said his business was looted during the red alert period on Sunday night.

“Someone’s broken in through the front door, smashed their way through about 1.30am,” he said.

“We came into find a bit of gear missing and bit of damage done … quite unbelievable.

“Right at the moment I have got a million other things to think about. It’s not the end of the world, but it’s just pretty low.

“I’m sure there’s a lot of other places worse off than me.”

The hospital and police station in Northampton also suffered significant damage.

On Sunday, the cyclone ripped apart Carnarvon’s historic One Mile Jetty and damaged the roof of Monkey Mia Resort.

The storm has weakened to below cyclone strength, and the severe weather warning has been cancelled.

However, a red alert remains for the townsite of Northampton.

Kitchen covered in glass

Kalbarri resident Ella Curic told ABC Radio the town had been “flattened”, with the roof torn off the local pub and police station.

Her family were sitting at the dining room table at her brother’s house when the neighbour’s roof “came through window”.

”The glass shattered, it all happened very quickly so we grabbed the children and got to the laundry,” she said.

”It was insane, timber was being impaled through the house, it was really unnerving.”

Emergency services were inundated with calls for help but many were forced to stay indoors due to the dangerous conditions.

70 per cent of Kalbarri damaged

Department of Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Darren Klemm said about 70 per cent of buildings in Kalbarri had been damaged, with 30 per cent of them significantly damaged.

“All the way from houses, the caravan park, the health centre, the police station and I believe the fire station has lost its roof there,” he said.

“So there has been significant damage in Kalbarri and certainly our focus there, but also Northampton has been hard hit as well.”

He said there were more than 350 calls to state emergency services overnight.

“It’s devastating for those people who have suffered damage either to their business or their home and we’re here to make sure we can help them as much as we can in these initial stages to get them safe, is the most important thing right now.

“There’s still a lot of debris out on the road, power lines down, and the issues of tin and whatever blowing around streets and trees over- it’s just not a great spot for people moving around,” he said.

Mr Klemm is urging people to heed the warnings and be patient as emergency services asses the damage.

”Our crews did assist some residents who had lost their homes, crews did help crews in Kalbarri to move location but a lot of that (damage) will become a lot clearer today.

”But 70 per cent of the town has been damaged to some degree.”

Mr Klemm earlier said 26,000 customers had been left without power.

The Department of Communities has set up three evacuation centres at the Irwin Recreation Centre in Port Denison, the Carnarvon Civic Centre and at the Shark Bay Recreation Centre in Denham.

The cyclone destroyed Carnarvon’s One Mile Jetty on Sunday with powerful winds and tides tearing the structure apart in the middle.

The near 1.5-kilometre-long One Mile Jetty was established in 1897 for wool and livestock exports to Fremantle and is the longest jetty in the north-west of the state.

Carnarvon was the first port in the world to load livestock on board ships for transport to markets.

The jetty was also known for animal races, where entrants would race sheep along its length.