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March 20, 2006

In The Wake Of Cyclone Larry - the lesson of preparedness

Topics: Natural Disasters Cyclone Larry hit the north Queensland town of Innisfail, causing major property damage, but no casualties. It is interesting to be able to compare the difference between the devastation and the lack of proper preparedness during hurricane Katrina and the current situation with a category 5 cyclone here in Australia.

As soon as the people of Innisfail knew that they were the target of the approaching cyclone they were evacuated to safer areas - purpose-built shelters within the town.

In areas such as Cairns, Townsville and other Queensland coastal towns the threat of cyclones is similar to that of the threat of hurricanes in the USA. For this reason there are purpose built structures and as soon as the call to evacuate is given people take the necessary provisions and head for the designated shelters.

In 1989 I was present when cyclone Aivu hit the north Queensland town of Ayr, or at least I should say that I was living in Townsville at the time and we were evacuated because of the very real possibility that the cyclone could touch down in Townsville. Ayr is 50 miles down the road from Townsville. In this case the designated evacuation centre for my family was on the RAAF base since my husband was on standby with the Caribou aircraft. The building was purpose built to withstand the full force of a cyclone.

One of the worst ever cyclones to hit Australia was Tracey. She hit Darwin on a Christmas eve. It is hard to believe that this happened more than 30 years ago. The houses in Darwin were flattened and there was a large loss of life (though not in the thousands). However, lessons were learned from Tracey and an effort was made to build houses designed to withstand the full force of a cyclone.

This form of preparedness for a natural disaster such as cyclone Larry that has hit Innisfail has meant an overall reduction in loss of life and damage to property. However, it appears that in Innisfail the number of homes that have been damaged is more than 50 per cent of the houses in the town.

Ben Creagh, a spokesman for Queensland state emergency has in fact pointed to the lessons that have been learned from Katrina and how it has helped the people of Queensland to avoid tthe kind of human suffering that followed in the wake of Katrina.

Posted by at March 20, 2006 11:49 PM

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