Weather News

Mass evacuations for NT coastal communities as Cyclone Trevor approaches

By Kate Ashton, Thursday March 21, 2019 - 00:20 EDT
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Cyclone Trevor is expected to hit the NT coast as a category four system. - ABC

Mass evacuations have been triggered for communities from Groote Eylandt down the Gulf of Carpentaria, as Tropical Cyclone Trevor looks to turn into a category four system.

According to the 2016 Census, there are 1,600 people on Groote Eylandt, all of who may have to be moved off the island.

The Bureau of Meteorology is advising Trevor will regain intensity and make landfall in the Northern Territory somewhere between Groote Eylandt and Borroloola later this week.

The weather system is currently crossing Cape York, south of Weipa, in Queensland.

The Bureau of Meteorology's NT manager, Todd Smith, said the weather system would be severe and residents needed to prepare early.

"This is a very serious event. That the cyclone is about to move back into the Gulf of Carpentaria, we have some time for people to act — and the time is now," he said.

"We really just need to keep on top of the warnings and stay in touch with the latest."

Gale-force winds could develop in the Gulf by today, he said.

"The waters right through the Gulf of Carpentaria are going to be dangerous from Thursday, with gale-force winds and rough seas developing early on Thursday as the system re-intensifies."

Evacuations may be imminent

Travis Wurst, the regional controller for the Northern Region in relation to Tropical Cyclone Trevor, said residents needed to be prepared to evacuate.

"We are asking everyone from that entire watch zone, from Groote Eylandt down — not from Nhulunbuy — to anticipate potential evacuation, to prepare documents, medication, a small bag just personal belongings, for that potential eventuality, so that if it has to occur it can occur quickly," he said.

"Where those people are going to is yet to be determined, but locations like Katherine and Darwin will be the primary locations."

Mr Wurst said evacuations were being enacted for those in Groote Eylandt, and in the coastal community of Numbulwar, where evacuations were already underway.

"Numbulwar has already commenced evacuations there, because that location may be impacted by strong winds and storm surges and the road in and out will be cut off by rain quickly."

In the most recent update, Mr Wurst said Groote evacuations would take place.

"In the interest of public safety and given the forecast, a decision has been made to evacuate the communities of Numbulwar by road and Groote Eylandt by air," he said.

"This process has commenced for Numbulwar and will commence soon for Groote Eylandt communities.

"This includes outstations and homelands near these areas.

"Our information tells us that this severe cyclone will be extremely dangerous and too dangerous for people to shelter in place."

Mr Wurst said most evacuees would potentially be accommodated in several Darwin locations.

"There is going to be a number of locations that our welfare group are working on. Foskeys Pavilion is one that is being considered — there are a number of other options that are being considered that will be ready for receptions later [Wednesday] afternoon," he said.

The evacuees started arriving in Darwin on Wednesday afternoon.

Residents of Groote Eylandt said evacuating the communities would be complex and could see up to 1,500 people leave the island.

Anindilyakwa Land Council environmental officer Ross McDonald said cyclones were not uncommon in the area but he's never seen Groote Eylandt evacuated.  

"I've been here for 15 years and ... we have a lot of cyclones ... but this is definitely the one we've had the most concern about," he said.

"And that being the case a lot of the properties aren't built for category 4 cyclones."

Get your cyclone kits ready

NT Emergency Services chief officer Jason Collins said even for those not evacuating, it was important to prepare cyclone kits early.

"Don't wait until Thursday or Friday, we suggest that you get your kits ready … even today would be a good start," he said.

"That includes all your water, your medications if you need them, and if you have young children make sure you have all the formula that you are going to need."

He said it was important to make sure people didn't go out on the water in these conditions.

"I'd definitely like to reiterate our message to all our boaties and fishers out there, do not go out on the water," he said.

"This will be severe and large, with the storm surges, we are talking a lot of water moving very fast."


© ABC 2019

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