Cyclone Seroja: Kalbarri a ‘war zone’ after Sunday night storm which damaged 70 per cent of town

Elise Van Aken, Geoff Vivian, Phoebe Pin and Reuben CarderGeraldton Guardian
Aftermath of cyclone Seroja in Kalbarri this morning.
Camera IconAftermath of cyclone Seroja in Kalbarri this morning. Credit: 7NEWS/7NEWS

The Mid West holiday haven of Kalbarri is in ruins today after it bore the brunt of tropical cyclone Seroja’s wrath last night, with 70 per cent of the town damaged and locals describing it as a “war zone”.

Kalbarri remains on Red Alert and local residents report extensive damage on Monday morning.

DFES Commissioner Darren Klemm announced 70 per cent of the town had been damaged, with 30 per cent of that damage being severe.

The SES received 115 calls for assistance from the Kalbarri-Northampton area and 50 calls from the Geraldton-Greenough region.

Geraldton all clear

Emergency WA has given the all clear for the City of Greater Geraldton and the areas south of Carnarvon to Lancelin, including the Shires of Shark Bay, Chapman Valley, Morawa, , Mingenew, Three Springs, Perenjori, Irwin and the townsites of Denham, Coorow, Carnamah, Moora, Paynes find, Jurien Bay, Lancelin, Wongan Hills and Dalwallinu in the Goldfields Midlands.

The threat in these areas has passed, but people are urged to take care to avoid the dangers caused by damage.

No injuries reported

Kalbarri SES local manager Steve Cable said they had fortunately not received any reports of injuries, with the extent of the damage to homes, trees and power lines.

“The town has been crunched by this cyclone, so at the moment we are coordinating our troops for the clean-up of debris, infrastructure, trees things like that.

“There are lots of houses without roofs and trees and power lines have fallen.

“I was a bit worried as while I’m taking care of everyone else I am not at my own house but I was able to go past and luckily everything is ok.

“We’ve had no reports whatsoever of any injuries.

“We are at an impasse now as we’re still in a red alert, even though the cyclone has passed, due to safety concerns.

“People are starting to wander around which is causing an issue.

“Many power lines may still be active and people shouldn’t risk coming in contact with them.

“We’re all operating on only about two hours sleep but we have a job to do and this is why we volunteer.”

Northampton deputy Shire president and Kalbarri resident Shane Krakouer said he had just been to check a unit he owned and the roof was blown off.

The devastation from the air — the town of Kalbarri was smashedon Sunday night night by Tropical Cyclone Seroja.
Camera IconThe devastation from the air — the town of Kalbarri was smashedon Sunday night night by Tropical Cyclone Seroja. Credit: 7NEWS/Simon Hydzik

“Untold houses have lost their roofs, it’s just a mess,” he said.

“There is a lot of damage, powerlines are down and powerpoles are split.”

Northampton Shire president Craig Simkin said he had not yet been outside his house, which had luckily escaped any serious damage.

“I don’t think there is anybody hurt,” he said.

“I have heard there is still a fair trail of destruction.

“One guy I spoke to in a two storey place said he can’t see a house that hasn’t had damage to it.”

A house which lost its roof in Kalbarri during cyclone Seroja.
Camera IconA house which lost its roof in Kalbarri during cyclone Seroja. Credit: Supplied/Kate Swenson, Supplied

Kalbarri residents survey the damage

Kalbarri resident Yvonne McKenzie said she and her family spent hours running between rooms when they started to fear their roof was about to fly off.

“We could hear tin ripping and screeching noises and we were in a safe room of the house with no windows but the next minute my husband and I looked up and the ceiling started to crack away from the wall and started to lift,” she said.

“We just had to run from room to room to try and find a spot where we were safe.

“We ended up in the laundry and we had some pillows ready and a little mattress and we said to the kids ‘look if something happens you are just going to have to hide under the covers and put this on top of you.’ They started crying and it was just horrible.”

gen cyclone pics - pic of roofing down at the RAC Monkey Mia resort. pic credit: CHRIS CASTRO
Camera Icongen cyclone pics - pic of roofing down at the RAC Monkey Mia resort. pic credit: CHRIS CASTRO Credit: supplied

When the storm passed, Mrs McKenzie realised it was her neighbour’s roof which had been ripped off in the wind.

She described the town as a “war zone”.

“There are people up the hill who only have a skeleton of a frame of a house,” she said.

“There are quite a few people in apartments that lost the front and were hiding in pantry cupboards.

“People were in bathtubs asking for help and nobody can do anything until the red alert is over and the SES can start attending to the calls.”

An aerial of Carnarvon during the cyclone.
Camera IconAn aerial of Carnarvon during the cyclone. Credit: Simon Hydzik/twitter/supplied

Mrs McKenzie said residents were “hugging and crying” in the streets this morning, saying Kalbarri would “need help” to repair damage.

“I don’t know where to start from here… We are just going to have to rally together and help each other out,” she said.

“I have been through three cyclones and I know they can get bad but we are not cyclone rated…this town is not prepared to deal with a cyclone and that showed last night.”

Mrs McKenzie said the Kalbarri SES must be praised for their efforts during the night.

“They kept us informed continuously…they have done a fabulous job together with the emergency service staff,” she said.

Kalbarri resident Pauline Freeman said she was in a group of chalets with her 87-year-old mother, Joyce Doyle, a former ABC journalist, and said the roof of a residence behind hers came off overnight and went over her house and was now blocking her from getting her car out.

She said she hadn’t slept and had heard the roof creaking during the night and thought it was hers, so she had got into the shower cubicle to shelter with her mother, hoping it would save them if the roof fell.

She said she had been through cyclones before in North Queensland but this was “one of the scariest things” she’d been through.

She said she hadn’t heard of any injuries but had heard a neighbour, in her 80s, calling for help during the night.

Another neighbour located the woman outside and helped her get indoors, and the woman was safe as of Monday morning and able to use her mobility scooter, she said.

There was damage to gardens and homes and the back of her house was covered in a carpet-like layer she believed was insulation from roofs, she said.

“I heard the roof go and thought it was mine,” she said.

“We’re in chalets here and we’ve lost five roofs.

“We’ve lost a lot of fences, we’ve got trees down on one roof.

“the back of my place is a house and their roof went over my house

“It’s just metal and insulation.

“I can’t get my car out.

“I grabbed mum and said get in the bathroom.

“I put a mattress on top of the shower cubicle and got some pillows.

“I said ‘Get in that shower’.

“We stayed in there, we had a mass of stuff against the door.”

She said her car was blocked in but they would try to eat something as they hadn’t eaten overnight, and then assess damage more.

She said a helicopter was going overhead during the interview but she didn’t know what kind of helicopter it was.

Deb Coulthard, a Kalbarri-based photographer, said she was at the Karijini Festival in the Pilbara and wasn’t able to get back to town.

She was staying in Karratha until roads reopened and hadn’t heard of any injuries in Kalbarri, and said she hoped her house wasn’t damaged but wouldn’t know and she could get back.

Kalbarri retirees and grandparents Terry and Cheryl Ash had a terrifying night in their home.

“There has been a lot of damage at our house, we have lost some of the roof but we can’t get out there to fix it as the beams supporting the balcony came down and went through the dining room glass doors,” Mrs Ash said.

“Pelican Shores (villas) basically needs to be demolished.”

Mr Ash said he risked his life to save his 65ft fibre glass cray boat with the help of his grandson.

“I’m 70 years old, probably too old to have done what I did,” he said.

“My 17-year-old grandson and I were out on my boat as we were very concerned…we had to keep pulling and tightening ropes as the tide came in to save it.

“Six metre waves were crashing down on us and there are now some holes in the boat.

“I didn’t think I was risking my life to save the boat at the time but looking back, I probably wouldn’t do it again.

“It’s part of my livelihood…I’m meant to be retired but I still do a lot of things around the place.

“Look, I won’t be doing it again. If we could have got off we would have, but we would have had to swim about 50m through fast running water.”

Mr Ash said his daughter Honour, 41, recently purchased Upstairs restaurant, which had been destroyed in the storm.

“They’d been working their butts off and it is now totally destroyed,” he said.

Businesses hit hard

Kalbarri café owner Laurena Richards said her brick and concrete business place was destroyed.

“We have no front, no windows, we lost the side wall, all our pull screen blinds are all gone,” she said.

“I have had the insurance broker on the phone, insurance will cover some of it.

“We lease the building so everything internal is ours.”

Ms Richards said she would be unable to trade for some time so her staff would be out of a job.

“We’re not the only business, most have suffered damage of some description or another but we’ll all keep going. We will all start over.”

Horrocks escapes the brunt of the storm

The small coastal town on Horrocks, west of Northampton, saw structural damage to homes and businesses including roofs lost but emerged relatively unscathed.

Horrocks Beachside Cottages general manager Reg Reynolds said he had six holiday units occupied with tourists, mainly from Perth, who were now all relieved at how well the town fared compared to it’s neighbours.

“A few roofs has been lost but besides that, Horrocks has fared pretty well,” he said.

“It should all be easily fixed, but we can’t do much until we are no longer on red alert.

“I did go around to inspect some damage and check if the elderly were okay, everyone is quite relieved.”

The devastation from the air — the town of Kalbarri was smashedon Sunday night night by Tropical Cyclone Seroja.
Camera IconThe devastation from the air — the town of Kalbarri was smashedon Sunday night night by Tropical Cyclone Seroja. Credit: 7NEWS/Simon Hydzik

Cyclone Seroja hit Geraldton around 8.30pm Sunday, with most homes without power from about that time.

Wind speeds reached 91 km/hr with gusts of up to 120.

Since 9am Sunday the Bureau of Meteorology rain gauge at Geraldton Airport recorded 33.6 mm.

A red alert remains.

Power outages remain

Northampton Shire has no power in its townships of Kalbarri, Binnu, Horrocks, Port Gregory and Northampton.

In Chapman Valley and greater Geraldton the outage extends as far White Peak, Nanson, Mullewa and Pindar with Dongara and Port Denison also down.

The outage extends to inland shires such as Morawa, Mingenew and Merredin.

Western Power is unable to provide a restoration time until maintenance crews report back.

The former Cyclone is now to a rain bearing depression tracking well inland in a south westerly direction.

By 5am it had passed Merredin and was tracking towards Southern Cross and Hyden.

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