Weather News

Utes packed to the brim as coastal residents flee Cyclone Trevor

By Emily Smith, Emelia Terzon and Matt Garrick, Friday March 22, 2019 - 00:34 EDT
ABC image
Residents of Borroloola board a C-17 as they evacuate Cyclone Trevor. - ABC

Mattresses, blankets and other precious items are being packed tight into utes in the Gulf of Carpentaria town of Borroloola as residents flee ahead of Cyclone Trevor's arrival.

If the cyclone tracks on the path that is predicted, it could slam into the town at full force as a category four storm system on Saturday.

"Most of them are getting evacuated — the babies, the mums and the elderly," resident Nola Anderson said.

"Others that can drive out are driving out now."

Fuel vouchers have been distributed by a Borroloola Aboriginal organisation to help people escape the impending storm system.

Ms Anderson said she was worried about what the cyclone could do to her hometown.

"It's just wait and see," she said.

"Hopefully there's not too much damage, but looking at the size of it, we're expecting the worst."

On Thursday afternoon, residents were being airlifted out of Borroloola on a C-17 dispatched by the Australian Air Force, which also sent three C-130 Hercules aircraft to help with the airlifts.

Evacuees face frustrations and worry in Darwin

Basil Mamarika was evacuated from Groote Eylandt to a Darwin shelter just before dawn on Thursday.

"It was frustrating. I wanted to stay back but the police says nobody can stay back because of the cyclone," he said.

"I'm so worried about my three dogs and my cat. I had to leave them inside my house."

Mr Mamarika spent Thursday sleeping, hugging his grandchildren and trying to stay calm while his community went through an unprecedented evacuation.

"I am nervous. I am a bit worried."

The Northern Territory has not seen a cyclone of this strength since Cyclone Lam, which destroyed 80 homes and left 600 people homeless.

Mr Mamarika is not sure how the public housing on his island home will fare either.

"The houses might get damaged badly. Especially the roofs. We have concrete houses but the roofs might be damaged," he said.

Sharon Crook is a volunteer tasked with keeping children occupied, bringing in bucketloads of donated food and keeping people calm at the evacuation centre.

People have been given green blankets and the makeshift basketball court has a big television blaring to keep people updated with the weather.

"That's all about keeping everybody occupied. The first day it's all a bit of a shock. Then they can get bored," Ms Crook said.

Ms Crook previously worked on evacuations of people from floods in Naiyu and said the procedures were all going smoothly.

"I'm here to help them settle in. Some get a bit emotional. It's okay during the day but at night time people get a bit emotional," she said.

Groote residents out of immediate danger

Earlier on Thursday, Chief Minister Michael Gunner declared a state of emergency in the Territory's Gulf Country.

On Wednesday, 220 residents left Groote Eylandt on Alliance and Airnorth jets bound for Darwin.

But evacuations from Groote Eylandt have stopped for now as the storm tracks in a more southerly direction, towards Borroloola.

Six hundred people have already evacuated from the island, which has a population of about 1,600. The remaining residents have to shelter on the island.

Robert Hince, who has lived in the Groote Eylandt town of Alyangula for about a year, was still deciding whether or not to leave.

While Mr Hince had been preparing — packing valuables into water-tight containers, stocking up on food and first-aid supplies and packing a 15-kilogram evacuation backpack — he said he would make a call later in the day after monitoring the weather radar.

"It's a matter of being ready," he said.

"There is a good vibe here [at the moment]."

In his part of the town, he said most of the houses were built by mining company GEMCO and had category three cyclone shelters.

Travellers experience calm before storm

Staff at the Groote Eylandt Lodge, a nationally known fishing retreat, were earlier packing up to prepare for evacuation.

Senja Frondorf, a German national working at the lodge, said staff were busily trying to get everything "hurricane ready".

"Everyone has to leave. It's exciting, I'm from Germany, so I don't know these kind of hazards."

She said the team at the lodge were preparing everything for the storm.

"We have a lot of outside furniture for the rooms that we have to get inside, making sure nothing is lying around, locking everything up, getting everything ready," she said.

Gabriele Parravicini has been working as a bartender at a Groote Eylandt golf club for about a month, and had been hoping to stay longer.

As the Italian traveller spoke to ABC Darwin on Thursday morning, he was heading towards the police station to see if there was any chance he could remain, despite the looming cyclone.

He had been planning to stay until October but was worried that if he left he might not be able to get back for some time.


© ABC 2019

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