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ABC reporter recalls devastating Bunbury tornado that 'destroyed the newsroom'

By Jessica Hayes, Friday May 15, 2020 - 14:28 EST

ABC reporter Alisha O'Flaherty had just printed her morning bulletin and was about to read the news when a 38-metre crane crashed through the roof and landed on her desk.

That was 15 years ago, and the crane had been brought down by a tornado that caused winds of up to 140 kilometres per hour, tearing roofs of buildings and flinging debris across Bunbury in Western Australia's south-west.

O'Flaherty became the story of the day on May 16, 2005, after narrowly avoiding being crushed by the crane, which was set up at a construction site next door.

"I heard a big crash and turned around and the newsroom had been demolished — the crane had destroyed it," she said.

"I stood there shaken, not really sure what had happened, and at that stage it was a bit unclear.

"One of my colleagues in the other part of the building ran and grabbed me to pull me away because I was standing there in shock.

"It had destroyed the newsroom where I had been standing a few seconds earlier."

The ferocious storm caused millions of dollars of damage across the city, crushing new vehicles in car yards, smashing shop windows and destroying homes.

SES volunteers were brought in from across the state to assist with the clean-up, which took several days.

The city's historic St Patrick's Cathedral was also damaged and eventually had to be demolished.

Storm 'savage' and 'shambolic'

Bunbury Historical Society president Graham Houghton described the tornado as "savage".

"I went walking and looked up at the cathedral and thought 'oh my God, they'll never repair that. It's a mess'," he said.

"I wandered around and looked down Spencer Street and there was stuff everywhere, all over the road, the walls were gone, the signs had gone.

"It was just shambolic, honestly it was, it had just ripped through the city…it was a major tornado."


© ABC 2020

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