Disaster support for Seroja-affected communities increased

Headshot of Liam Beatty
Liam BeattyGeraldton Guardian
Lord Mayor Basil Zempilas, Seroja recovery co-ordinator Melissa Pexton and minister Reece Whitby.
Camera IconLord Mayor Basil Zempilas, Seroja recovery co-ordinator Melissa Pexton and minister Reece Whitby. Credit: Supplied

Financial support for residents affected by Cyclone Seroja has been increased as Emergency Services minister Reece Whitby and Lord Mayor Basil Zempilas toured Kalbarri yesterday.

More than 1119 structures across a 130,000 square kilometres impact area were damaged by Seroja, including 70 per cent of structures in Kalbarri, which also caused widespread devastation across agricultural land in the region.

Mr Zempilas announced the Lord Mayor’s Distress Relief Fund had swelled to $7.2 million in recent days and announce a package of payments available to people impacted by the storm.

$25,000 will be made available for every house totally destroyed by the cyclone while a payment of $10,000 will be given for every property uninhabitable due to major damage.

“While I understand these payments will not replace everything that people have lost, I hope that it will ease some of the financial burden,” he said.

At least 32 homes were completely destroyed in the cyclone, while more than 211 were severely damaged.

Minister Whitby said Seroja will be remembered as one of the worst cyclones to hit Western Australia, announcing the storm had been elevated to a Category D disaster — the first time this designation had been given in Western Australia since new emergency funding arrangements were implemented in 2018.

The designation, which required approval from prime Minister Scott Morrison, activates further funding from the State and Federal Government's for a clean-up program and support package for the 13 local governments impacted.

The program will include grants for farmers and small businesses to aid in the clean up and recovery of the region.

So far the insurance bill has risen to a staggering $112 million from 4614 insurance claims according to the Insurance Council of Australia, but recovery coordinators expect the real cost will be much higher.

Information on the disaster assistance is available on the Australian Government's Disaster Assist website at disasterassist.gov.au.

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