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Satellite photos, ground surveys reveal damage to heritage buildings from Cyclone Seroja

Tuesday June 22, 2021 - 02:32 EST

Satellite images of cyclone-damaged areas are being used to assess the extent of damage to dozens of heritage-listed buildings in Western Australia's Midwest and Wheatbelt. 

Cyclone Seroja, which was a category three storm, tore through a large part of the region in mid-April damaging homes as well as buildings of historical significance including churches, hotels and farm structures.

Executive director of heritage services at the Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage, Ben Harvey, described the damage from the cyclone as unprecedented.

He said about 35 buildings on the state heritage register were "seriously damaged", while another 35 had less serious damage.

View from space

Mr Harvey said a consultant on the ground had assessed the damage, and more recently a satellite mapping service had been used.

"It is a bit like Google Maps," he said.

"We get quite good high-resolution photos of those buildings and areas that have been impacted and that gives a good indication of the damage that has been done.

"Certainly a disaster on this scale is greater than anything that I think we have previously encountered so unfortunately it is a first.

"About a decade ago there was that significant earthquake in Kalgoorlie which caused a lot of devastation to buildings but that was in a much more confined location.

"Whereas the cyclone obviously ripped through a large swathe of the area and caused a lot of damage so this is certainly the largest that I am aware of personally."

He urged anyone with a heritage-listed building damaged by Cyclone Seroja to contact the department.

"For places on the state register or being considered for the state register we can certainly provide advice ... as to steps they can take," Mr Harvey said.

Trades shortage

Mr Harvey warned with a shortage of expert tradespeople there could be a wait of several years for restoration work.

"Even in Perth it can sometimes be hard to get people with the appropriate skills so we are very aware that the availability of those people to assist in cyclone-affected areas will be difficult.

"We are anticipating that it will be months and potentially even years for some of these properties to be fully replaced and repaired to the original extent.

"That is just an unfortunate fact of life."

Church heritage 

About seven historic properties designed by renowned architect and Catholic priest Monsignor John Hawes were damaged in the storm. 

Catholic diocese heritage director Father Robert Cross said most of the damage was to roofs. 

He said insurance would cover most of the repairs and he would oversee any work on the heritage-listed buildings. 

He called for state government help for people who privately own heritage properties.

"These buildings are recognised by the state as being significant, they benefit the whole community," Father Cross said. 

"They hold the memories of the whole community."

He said given the benefit to society, there should be funds to help with repairs. 


© ABC 2021

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