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Tropical Cyclone Marcus: Darwin schools to close as clean-up continues

By Emily JB Smith, Neda Vanovac, and ABC Darwin staff, Monday March 19, 2018 - 08:00 EDT
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A man walks through a Darwin street littered with leaves, branches, and fallen trees. - ABC

Schools across Darwin will close on Monday as emergency services work to restore power and water in the wake of Tropical Cyclone Marcus.



, which left more than a third of Darwin properties without power.

on Sunday as a category two system, and is now back over water, causing no further impact to northern communities.

It was announced that public schools across Darwin, Palmerston, and the rural area would be closed on Monday as a precautionary measure, as well as all three Charles Darwin University campuses.

The public service will work on a skeleton staff, and residents should liaise with non-government schools and companies to find out if they will be open, authorities said.



There are 60,000 properties across Darwin, and 23,000 still have no electricity; residents will have to wait until at least Wednesday to get reconnected, and for some, it could take a week.

Batchelor and Adelaide River were also affected by outages.

More than 500 reports have been received of trees on power lines and fallen power lines, and hundreds of large trees have been strewn across roads, blocking access to many of Darwin's streets.

Power and Water said crews from Alice Springs and Katherine were being deployed to Darwin to help restore power to the region.



Traffic lights across Darwin also remain out, so drivers were urged to take caution on the roads.

Residents have been urged by the Health Department to drink bottled water or boil water and let it cool before drinking or using for cooking or oral hygiene, as it may be contaminated.

Power and Water says extensive tests of Darwin's water system would begin on Sunday, but it could take 48 hours to get the results.

Telstra said 2,000 fixed-line services had been disrupted in Darwin and surrounding areas.

ADSL and mobiles services are also affected across a number of areas including Berry Springs, Dundee Beach, Wagait Beach, Howard Springs, Karama, Parap and Moil.

Homes have been trashed and rivers and creeks have risen, cutting off some isolated communities.

A flood watch is current, with possible rainfalls of up to 150mm over the next 24 hours.

Meanwhile at Bunnings in Darwin, chainsaws and generators had sold out.

Surveys of the damage to the Top End are still preliminary and it will be days before the total cost of repairs will be known.

of over 62 kilometres per hour for six hours, and recorded a maximum wind gust of 130 kilometres per hour while Marcus was passing overhead on Saturday.

Dum-In-Mirrie received 156mm of rain, while Gunn Point received 135mm.



Emergency response underway

Residents have been urged to be patient and to avoid travelling across the city as hundreds of emergency personnel, police, essential services staff and the Defence Force clear the streets from Sunday.



Crews worked through the night to reopen roads to Darwin's critical infrastructure like the hospital and airport.

NT Emergency Services chief officer Jason Collins urged those cleaning up to wear proper footwear and goggles for those using chainsaws.

Those using generators should make sure the area was ventilated.

He also advised people to stay away from waterways and not to drive through floodwaters.

, but noted some "may have got a bit complacent" in their preparations.

"We want to get the Territory up and going open for business after this event as soon as possible, but we are going to take a safety-first approach," he said.

"There are hundreds of people out there at the moment working really hard to make the Top End safe again."

He said emergency services had a list of vulnerable people who required power for medical reasons, but urged anyone who was concerned to get in touch.

The Territory Insurance Office said it had already received about 150 claims by Sunday evening, and urged policyholders to get their claims in as soon as possible.



Looting concerns police

A number of Darwin business owners said they have arrived at work to find their properties looted in the aftermath of tropical cyclone Marcus.

Nursery owner Estelle Cornell said she couldn't believe it when she came to work and found the place raided.

"I've been not only taken out by the cyclone, but also robbed," she said.

She said she was robbed of her charity tins and cash from the till.

"It's a pretty hard pill to swallow, and whoever it is, I hope you're enjoying because you're very, very selfish," she said.

"There's so many people out there who need help … [the thieves] have got no morale, they've got no feelings."



A vehicle allegedly drove into a car dealership in Winnellie to access the showroom at the height of the storm on Saturday, sales manager David Perri said.

Mr Perri said he was checking the building was okay when he discovered the significant damage to doors and windows, however, no cash or cars were stolen.

Mr Perri, who believed he was still in the building when the offenders were there, said he was surprised someone would go to that length during a cyclone.

"I think a lot of people would have gone and checked their own businesses today to see that they were still intact," he said.

Darwin Police Regional Manager Warren Jackson said people could try to take advantage of the vulnerability of homes and businesses after the storm.

"Crime is always a concern in an emergency situation," he said.

Police were calling for witnesses after a generator that was being used to power a set of traffic lights was stolen.

Officers say the device was stolen from the Bagot and McMillans Roads intersection just before 3:30am on Sunday; it was running traffic signals at the site at the time of the theft.

Anyone with any information is urged to call police on 131 444 or call Crime Stoppers anonymously on 1800 333 000.



Business reopens, events cancelled

Eight AFL NT grand finals across all divisions have been postponed for second time.

They will be played on Wednesday if the ground is cleared, or Saturday March 24.



Otherwise, all eight divisions will have dual premiers and clubs will share honours.

AFLNT representatives will meet with stakeholders Sunday morning to plan the completion of the season.

Meanwhile, all flights resumed scheduled times at Darwin Airport from 4.15am on Sunday.

Darwin Port was not structurally damaged, and a commercial vessel left at 10am after a channel check was completed.

Some neighbourhood markets such as Nightcliff were cancelled, but Rapid Creek markets opened.

Casuarina Square will resume normal trading hours on Sunday.

Courts would be running on Monday in a very limited capacity, and nobody summonsed for jury service would be expected to come in.

People who were due to participate in jury service were urged to call 1800 657 511 for further updates on Monday.

Shoal Bay Waste Management facility opened at 7am, however residents have reported large traffic jams getting into the facility.

"Don't get me wrong, we are moving, but it's a pretty bumper-to-bumper situation," a caller told ABC Radio on Sunday morning.

"The roads are pretty crazy, so if you don't need to do it, don't do it."

Authorities said that waste management facilities were struggling to cope with the volume of trees and branches being left at their sites, and residents with green waste were directed to bundle branches and leave them on their verge for collection.

Different councils have different arrangements for green waste disposal.

The request is also part of a measure to encourage motorists to stay off the roads while downed power lines are made safe and debris, said NT Police regional controller Warren Jackson.

"The lack of electricity has had an impact on traffic lights, we only have about half of them working across the region," he said.



Another cyclone possible

As the clean-up gets underway, Darwin is also bracing for the threat of another cyclone, as a tropical low could form north of the Territory this week.

The Bureau of Meteorology NT was keeping a close eye on the monsoonal trough developing in the Arafura Sea that could form into another cyclone near Darwin later in the week.

"When we do have the monsoonal trough active over water, that is when we tend to see tropical lows develop," said acting BOM NT manager Jude Scott.

"At any point along the monsoonal trough we could see the development of a tropical low, and that really covers from the western Top End all the way over to the eastern Top End.

"All tropical cyclones start life as a tropical low."

She said whether the tropical low pressure system intensified into a tropical cyclone would depend on a number of factors, such as the overall environmental conditions, how long the weather system remained over water where it could strengthen, and how it interacted with land as it moved.

But she said there were too many variables at the moment to make any firm predictions.

Looking to the future



Mr Gunner said he would support the removal of African Mahogany trees from the Darwin area; the exotic trees had caused extensive damage throughout the region when they fell during the storm.

But he said the move would need council support, as many of the trees were on council land.

Deputy chief minister Nicole Manison said Power and Water might look at a previous plan to supply underground power network, given the extensive outages.

However, she said that was caused by a range of factors, not only overhead powerlines vulnerable to wind and trees falling.

"There has been a previous power program around underground power," she said.

"We know we have got around 25,000 homes now without power. It's for a range of reasons though, not just because of overhead powerlines.

"[We] will certainly be looking to see how can we ensure we deliver a more robust power network going into the future."

Anyone requiring Emergency Service assistance should call 132 500, or 000 in a life-threatening situation.

Updates will be provided by SecureNT as they become available:


- ABC

© ABC 2018

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