Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) workers are in North Queensland to assess the damage after Category 4 Cyclone Debbie smashed into the coast between Airlie Beach and Mackay yesterday. Their efforts are being hampered, however, by rising floodwaters and debris blocking major roads.
According to media reports, homes, businesses and boats have sustained major damage, particularly in Hamilton Island, Airlie Beach and Proserpine. A man was injured when a wall fell on him and a woman died in a vehicle accident near Proserpine in which the weather was believed to be a factor.
“The worst part was the unknown,” said Cannonvale resident Brian Forrester. “There were seven of us sheltering together, and were fortunate to be in a cyclone-rated home and had done adequate preparations. But the house was literally humming and vibrating from the wind, which is crazy considering it’s built on a concrete slab!”
The cyclone has now been downgraded to a tropical depression but heavy rain is still being experienced along the Queensland coast between Townsville and Brisbane. ADRA Australia emergency manager Kevin Munro, who is supporting the relief effort from the Northern Australian Conference office in Townsville, predicts that flooding will increase as rain continues to fall inland with coastal communities as far south as northern New South Wales feeling the effects. [pullquote]
Northern Australia ADRA director Charlene Luzuk stayed in Ayr while the cyclone hit. “Ayr is fine,” she told Record. “A few trees down—nothing major.” She and Graham Robbins, an ADRA volunteer, Ayr church member and former firefighter, are now driving south to Bowen, Airlie Beach and other communities that took the brunt of the storm. They’re taking a generator with them as well as a chainsaw. However, their progress is being hampered by rising floodwaters that, according to media reports, have now blocked the Bruce Highway in three places. More than 60,000 properties spent Tuesday night without mains electricity. Authorities are warning it could take a week before they’re able to switch the power back on. Phone reception—both landline and mobile—is either patchy or non-existent.
Mr Munro says he was surprised that the Adventist pastor at Bowen, Richard Felkel, was able to call him this morning to report only minor damage to church buildings and his home.
“We also have church members at Airlie Beach, Cannonvale and Prosperpine,” said Mr Munro. “We want to find out how they are and how we can help. But we’ve got to get in there first.”
Teams from Adventist churches in Mackay are on standby to assist people affected by the cyclone. So far there’s been no need to use church buildings as evacuation centres, but, if the predicted flooding occurs, they may need to provide emergency shelter. Mr Munro says Adventists from as far north as Cairns have expressed their willingness to volunteer in the relief effort.
To make a donation to ADRA Australia’s Cyclone Debbie relief effort, visit their website.