Martin Rodger describes it like being caught in “the spin cycle of the washing machine.”
In the eighteen years that he and his wife have lived in Kalbarri, they’ve never seen or heard anything like the category three tropical cylone Seroja that tore through the town on April 11.
“The noise is unbelievable,” says Mr Rodger, who owns two local businesses affected by the storm, ‘Jetty’s Seafood Shack’ and ‘Kalbarri Quad Bike Safaris’. “You can hear the roofs being torn off, but you don’t know where it’s coming from, or if it’s your roof or your neighbors. It’s like being in a cinema with the surround sound on double, but you can’t just leave the cinema, you’re stuck there.”
The cyclone damaged 75 per cent of the town. Ten per cent of buildings are now uninhabitable. Power still has not been restored a month on from the storm.
The fishing town is home to 1300 residents, with numbers rising to 5000 in the tourist season. Most locals are employed in the tourist industry. After many businesses already struggled with a loss of visitors through 2020, this disaster will continue to have huge financial impacts on the community.
“This has compounded the situation we were in after COVID,” adds Mr Rodger. “The quad bike business is unaffected, but we can’t run it because there are no tourists. [Jetty’s Seafood Shack] has been made electrically safe and we can function once power is on. It’s going to be one massive challenge.”
A slow road to recovery
Some power is restored, thanks to large generators, but there is still a long way to go before life becomes normal again.
“As of Sunday [April 25], we have reliable power but there are still people in town [without],” says Rev David Day, Minister in Charge at Kalbarri Church. “A lot of people are running generators, but they can’t run a microwave or boil the kettle – those sorts of everyday things you might take for granted. This may go on for a number of weeks.”
Anglican Aid is partnering with the Diocese of North West Australia to help support the Kalbarri church and community as they recover.
There are many government departments and organisations, such as the State Emergency Services and the Red Cross, in town providing support. Kalbarri Church is looking to offer additional support in the community, through pastoral care and formal opportunities for grief and trauma counseling. “People are getting in and getting things happening, but there is a small group of people who are absolutely traumatised,” says Mr Day. “They can’t get on with life or clean up their messes or cope with what is happening.”
Bishop Gary Nelson, of the Diocese of North West Australia, says that it will take months, if not years, for communities to recover. “Cyclone Seroja has caused widespread damage throughout the Mid-West and parts of the Wheat Belt to homes, businesses, farms and essential infrastructure...Our Anglican church family is caring for each other and, importantly, reaching out to the wider community to show the love of Christ and share the hope of the gospel.”
In light of this, Mr Day prays that his church may be a blessing to the community in many ways. “Keep praying for us to meet together, and for those in our church to remain connected to Christ,” he says. “Pray for our church, that we pick and choose what we do in a wise way. Pray for wise words and actions for us. We’re trying to talk to people and be available for people and support them.”
With the town still in a mess, and reconstruction not yet started, Mr Day recognises that many in town will need help for a long time to come. “Pray that people [in Kalbarri] will get the support they need, not only from the government but from the insurance companies and others.”
You can give to the Anglican Aid appeal here.