Last Friday the 13th of March, people living in Perth, Western Australia were bracing for strong weather warnings predicted over the weekend caused by Cyclone Olwyn. Geraldton was on Yellow Alert Friday evening after the cyclone tore through Exmouth causing severe destruction. However, the Category Three Cyclone changed direction at the last minute leaving Geraldton and Perth with only a sprinkle of rain, and people thinking “What a fizzle that cyclone was!”
Carnarvon however, wasn't so lucky. At 11am on Friday 13th the Cyclone hit, uprooting big trees, pushing electrical poles over, and tearing roof sheeting from homes. Many reported the wind was so strong that the rain was horizontal. HCR's Geraldton-based staff work closely with Radio MAMA Carnarvon, an Aboriginal community radio station.
Today, staff spoke with Radio MAMA volunteers Carmel and Antonio to discuss the aftermath of the cyclone. Here’s what announcer Carmel, had to say:
It was really scary being by myself at home. I was stuck inside with just a candle for my only light, it made me feel dread. I couldn’t wait until the next morning so there was light. I heard a banging sound and thought it was damage being done to the neighbour’s house, but it was my front fence swinging in the wind. I went outside to try close it and could hardly walk from the force of the storm. The next morning before the sun even came up I went outside to see the damage. There was debris everywhere and flooding. At my daughters house a tree had been blown over by the wind the night before, and in the morning when she awoke it was back up. The wind had changed direction and forced it up again. I got my electricity back Saturday evening, but some places only got there’s back yesterday. Having no electricity affected so much including critical services like the hospital. We couldn't access money for food or phone credit. Luckily, services have set up at the Wool Shed, and we have been able to get food and make phone calls.
Volunteer Antonio was also affected by the cyclone:
My dad works on one of the banana plantations. There has been 100% damage to the 48 plantations in Carnarvon. My dad’s house on the plantation had a tin roof, which was completely ripped off. There were services around to help, but because of the damage to other houses exposing asbestos, there were precautions in place for the workers. It was hard to explain that it was just a tin roof. However, we did get some tape and my dad and I were able to fit it. My house in town was damaged as well.
Carmel and Antonio said that the Carnarvon community are doing well now and have united together, with everyone doing what they can to get the town back up and running. Carmel expressed how great it was that Radio MAMA broadcast up to date information of the cyclone warnings, and then what to do in the aftermath. Although, power was lost, Radio MAMA was the first station back on air, providing emergency coverage for the Carnarvon community. Radio is often the only available source of vital information and warnings when a cyclone hits. It is wonderful to see a community station like Radio MAMA providing this much needed emergency information to the Carnarvon community.