opinion

Opinion: We all stand with Kalbarri, Northampton and other communities devastated by cyclone Seroja

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Kate CampbellGeraldton Guardian
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A message of “We will rebuild” in the sand at Kalbarri.
Camera IconA message of “We will rebuild” in the sand at Kalbarri. Credit: Matt Anderson/7NEWS/supplied

During my time growing up and living in the Mid West, I don’t think I have ever heard someone say a bad word about Kalbarri and its people. Same goes for Northampton.

My memories of the small but mighty town of Kalbarri stretch back to some of my earliest recollections in life — of sun-kissed, fun-filled school holidays spent there with my parents, sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins where days would be spent at the beach and nights at the minigolf course and trampoline park.

Its appeal is timeless and its magic lies in the fact that Kalbarri doesn’t try to be anything it isn’t.

The strong and special ties so many of us have to Kalbarri made it even more heartbreaking to see and hear the utterly devastating images and stories from Sunday night’s terrifying collision with TC Seroja. Stories of families hiding in bathrooms, toilets, cupboards, under benches — doing anything to survive.

And Premier Mark McGowan is right — it’s bordering on a miracle that no one was killed — that the only injuries to anyone were a few scratches — when roofs were torn off like paper, power poles broken like matchsticks and brickwork crumbled like cookies.

A town so far south and with so many “shacks” had no chance against erratic and powerful Seroja and her 170km/h winds.

No matter how long it takes to rebuild Kalbarri — and it has to be rebuilt — that is the biggest blessing in all this mess.

If this can happen once, it can happen again. We were exposed — for not being prepared and not being cyclone-proof.

If Kalbarri is our jewel, then Northampton is the historic heartbeat in our little patch (apart from being the State’s most prolific footballing factory on a per capita basis).

It took a hammering too, but its resilience is just as strong as its northern neighbour.

Their homes, pubs and other buildings may have been destroyed, but the the spirits of these towns can’t be broken.

Geraldton and other parts of the Mid West which escaped relatively unscathed need to heed big lessons from this.

If this can happen once, it can happen again. We were exposed — for not being prepared and not being cyclone-proof.

Yes, no one one expected a cyclone would cross as a category three this far south. But we can’t claim ignorance if it happens again. A small variation in Seroja’s trajectory would have left Geraldton a pile of rubble, rather than Kalbarri and Northampton.

There is no doubt questions need to be asked — about the adequacy of our power network, building standards and preparedness — and change needs to happen in the wake of this disaster.

In a month or two, most people of Geraldton will forget about the inconvenience of being without power for three or four days.

But the people of Kalbarri, Northampton and other cyclone-hit areas who lost their roofs and their homes don’t have the luxury of forgetting for a long time, if ever.

Yes, it’s heartbreaking that many of us won’t be able to visit Kalbarri as one of our favourite backyard holiday destinations for the foreseeable future.

But no truer words could have been said than what was written in the beach sand the day after the devastation by a local: “We will rebuild”.

The entire Mid West and WA needs to stand with these communities.

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