The clean-up has begun on Western Australia’s mid-west coast after Tropical Cyclone Seroja tore through the region overnight, causing widespread damage.
Much of the carnage was concentrated in popular tourist spot Kalbarri, 580km north of Perth and home to about 1400 people.
Seroja made landfall south of the town about 8pm on Sunday as a category three storm with wind gusts up to 170km/h.
— Lord – Sir Thomas Wynn (@mister_wynn) April 12, 2021
It has now been downgraded to a tropical low and moved offshore near Esperance on WA’s south coast.
A red alert has been lifted for Kalbarri but remains in place in nearby Northampton, where residents are urged to stay home.
It’s estimated that half of the homes in #Kalbarri are damaged.
— Jo D. (@dexi_jo) April 12, 2021
Premier Mark McGowan has asked residents to continue following advice from the Department of Fire and Emergency Services.
“While it will take time to fully assess the damage, it is already clear that the impact has been very significant – particularly in Kalbarri and Northampton,” he said in a Facebook post on Monday.
“I know this is an incredibly stressful time, but please be patient as emergency services work through the situation.”
— Madre Swift Justice (@JayStill4) April 12, 2021
An all-clear has been issued for Kalbarri, Geraldton and the shires of Carnamah, Coorow, Chapman Valley, Irwin, Mingenew, Morawa, Perenjori, Shark Bay and Three Springs.
Mr McGowan will provide an update later on Monday after emergency crews fly over Kalbarri to inspect the damage, but earlier spoke to The Bunch…
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the Commonwealth disaster response plan had been activated.
The Australian Defence Force will provide a C-130J Hercules aircraft for medical evacuations and to transport emergency workers and supplies.
“Defence is also considering a request from WA for boots on the ground to assist with clean up and damage assessment,” Federal Emergency Management Minister David Littleproud said.
“These communities need assistance now and we are acting immediately.”
Emergency Services Minister Reece Whitby expected the combined state and federal disaster relief to exceed the $18 million spent on the Woorooloo bushfires which destroyed 86 homes northeast of Perth in February.
Reports of property damage and power outages in Kalbarri and Geraldton began to emerge as the storm’s force was felt and residents took shelter by candlelight.
Fallen trees, damaged homes and wrecked fences could be spotted amid the howling wind and rain in social media footage.
Wind gusts recorded in Kalbarri and nearby areas were likely to have been the strongest in more than 50 years, the Bureau of Meteorology said.
“I’ve never experienced anything in my life like we experienced last night,” resident and caravan park manager Debbie Major told ABC TV.
“It’s only a small town … half of it has been flattened.”
Kalbarri’s State Emergency Service chief Steve Cable said the whole town had been impacted.
“Some of the older buildings didn’t stand up very well but even some of the modern buildings, they just couldn’t hold,” he said.
“Large trees with quite substantial limbs just snapped off like carrots.”
Western Power said more than 31,500 customers had lost power in Kalbarri, Geraldton, Northampton, Dongara, Port Denison and Mullewa, with restoration work to commence as soon as possible once hazards are cleared.