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Ex-Tropical Cyclone Seroja destroys homes, historic jetty and leaves thousands without power

By David Weber, Monday April 12, 2021 - 21:44 EST
ABC image
The Railway Tavern in Northampton was badly damaged by Cyclone Seroja. - ABC

Kalbarri has been decimated by ex-Tropical Cyclone Seroja with authorities estimating damage to about 70 per cent of the town's buildings.


Kalbarri, at the mouth of the Murchison River, is a popular holiday destination about 700 kilometres north of Perth and 170 kilometres north of Geraldton.


Northampton, to Kalbarri's south-east, 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 170 kilometres per hour.


Tens of thousands of customers across the region were without power, and restoration could take days.


Phone services have also been affected, with Telstra reporting widespread outages to its mobile network.


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


Homes have been left unlivable 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 may 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 forty 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."


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.


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.


Dead fish pepper lawn at caravan park


Debbie Major, who runs the Kalbarri Anchorage Caravan Park, said she had never experienced anything like it.


"Our park's got a lot of damage, trees have gone through our windows, a lot of water inside," she said.


She said that as they took shelter downstairs, they had to hold onto the doors.


"Because all the windows upstairs broke, and just the pressure of the wind coming in.


"It was just terrifying.


"I just didn't know what we were going to wake up to this morning.


She said most of the park's permanent residents had lost the roofs of their homes, and one had a dinghy on their front doorstep, and there were dead fish on the back lawn. 


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 Sunday. 


"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 urged 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.


Premier Mark McGowan said the damage was widespread and severe.


"We are thinking of all those people who have lost their homes, their livelihoods or suffered serious damage to their property," he said.


"It's devastating for these families and these communities."


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.







- ABC

© ABC 2021

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