Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Big blow misses Darwin but belts Maningrida

The good news is that Cyclone Monica changed direction and basically bypassed Darwin. It did pound Maningrida though. No lives were lost. That has to be a God-thing, surely.

Pounded for 12 hours … and still everyone's safe - National -

CYCLONE Monica hammered the small Aboriginal community of Maningrida on the West Arnhem Land coast with devastating force for more than 12 hours.

"It was amazing nobody was hurt," said an emergency services worker, Olga Wrzesinska, last night.

A wind recording instrument at the police station broke after registering 170 kilometres per hour early yesterday.

"The gales were much higher [than that] - it came in as a category five storm, which is very frightening," Ms Wrzesinska said. "The eye of the storm was only 10 kilometres off the coast from here." [...]

In Maningrida, trees were snapped and uprooted, and sheets of iron, exhaust fans, timber and rubbish bins were turned into deadly missiles that shot through the darkness, often spearing buildings.

As 30 people huddled together in the high school, the roof of an adjoining building was blown off. "It collapsed onto the rooms where the people were sheltering," said a photographer, Jake Nowakowski. "How nobody was hurt I don't know … It seemed like it would never end."

Bradley Mason, 21, surveyed the devastation of what had been his family's house. "It's just as well we went to a shelter - the house is totally destroyed," he said. "I don't know what we will do now - find somewhere to sleep, I guess."

A schoolteacher, Kevin Rennie, said the emergency plan had worked quite well. "People had designated houses and shelters to go to," he said.

About 2100 of Maningrida's 2300 residents are indigenous.

"The Aboriginal people take these things in their stride," Mr Rennie said. "Their ancestors rode these things out."

Weather forecasters said that as Monica tracked slowly over the sea towards Maningrida it was the most intense cyclone ever recorded in the Top End.

Yesterday, as workers cleared debris, some people delivered hot food to hungry neighbours.

"It's surreal. Like … all that terror never happened," Ms Wrzesinska said. "This has brought out a great sense of community spirit."

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