Standing together for the long haul
14 October 2014
“Cyclone Yasi not only left people without homes, but also without jobs. People are struggling to make ends meet and it’s going to take a long, long time for this area to recover,”
– Major Merv Holland, Cyclone Relief, Coordinator, Tully Nth Queensland.
Yasi struck on 3 February with devastating fury, taking everything in its path on the Cassowary coast of North Queensland. Whole houses have disappeared, roofs, walls, windows, contents, cane and banana crops, flora, fauna and roads were swept away in the 300 kilometre per hour winds. Latest damage estimates exceed $1.5 billion.
The Salvation Army reached devastated towns like Tully and Cardwell as soon as the roads opened – even feeding people stuck in roadblocks on the way there.When the initial crisis response wound down and emergency services personnel moved out, The Salvation Army stayed to help rebuild the lives of devastated locals.
Janet and her two teenage children survived Yasi unscathed physically, but not so emotionally. With the banana plantations in the area decimated, the box factory where Janet worked shut down. Although she still had a part-time job at a local café, her income dropped by a whopping 60 percent and soon she was unable to make ends meet.
“We’re struggling,” she says. “We’re doing it really tough.” Her car was destroyed in the cyclone and the family’s second car soon broke down. Janet has been forced to sell clothes and other belongings at the local markets in order to pay her bills. Major Merv Holland says the stoicism of locals like Janet often masks the real pain being felt in the community: “The ‘Janets’ of this area are victims of a massive unemployment problem since Cyclone Yasi.
There are people coming every day looking for work but moving on because there simply aren’t any job opportunities here anymore.”
Sugar cane losses are projected to exceed $500 million and bananas $300 million, according to local sources. Not only did The Salvation Army help the family get back on its feet with rental payments and supermarket vouchers, Janet accepted trauma counselling and says it has helped her immensely.
“I haven’t really spoken to anyone in the community about the way I am feeling because I’m very lucky compared to some,” she says, “but for the first time since things have happened I’ve been able to tell someone that: ‘no it’s not all fine.’ So that’s been a really big relief.” Janet says The Salvation Army has given her hope.
The family wants to move away from Tully to be closer to family in Mackay but can’t afford the relocation costs. Now, with The Salvation Army’s help, Janet is able to repair a motor home she owns so that it can be sold to raise money for the move. “Now that we’ve got that hope of moving… it’s just given us a real spring in our step.”