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    Coat of ArmsMedia Release
    Premier of Queensland
    The Honourable Peter Beattie

    QUEENSLAND GOVERNMENT ACTS IMMEDIATELY ON CYCLONE DAMAGE

    Premier of Queensland
    The Honourable Peter Beattie

    Tuesday, March 21, 2006

    QUEENSLAND GOVERNMENT ACTS IMMEDIATELY ON CYCLONE DAMAGE

    Premier Peter Beattie and a team of senior Ministers and CEOs have acted immediately to help communities in Far North Queensland stricken by Cyclone Larry.

    “I was determined to go into Innisfail as soon as I could after the winds subsided so that we could gain an immediate understanding of the extent of the damage and assure everyone affected that we would do everything we could to help them,” said Mr Beattie.

    “I was appalled by the severity of the damage and my heart goes out to the thousands of Queenslanders who have lost homes, businesses, crops or cherished, irreplaceable personal possessions. Some have lost just about everything.

    “So I appeal for donations to the Premier’s Disaster Relief Appeal Fund through any branch of the Commonwealth Bank or by phoning 1800 150 411.

    “The first task we are undertaking is to restore essential services. We could have running water within days, however power and sewerage could take longer to restore.

    “I have also been talking to the Prime Minister and we plan to visit the area tomorrow.

    “I thank the hundreds of people who are working in the area to help, including at least 1,000 State Emergency Service staff and volunteers.

    “The Counter Disaster and Rescue Services division of the Department of Emergency Services is co-ordinating the response, which has included staff from most departments, such as the Queensland Fire and Rescue Services, Queensland Health, Queensland Ambulance Service, Counter Disaster and Rescue services staff in regional offices, State Emergency Service volunteers and environmental health officers.

    “Specialist teams from Brisbane, including paramedics, disaster operations specialists and urban search and rescue experts, have joined regional staff and volunteers.

    “The Department of Communities has the lead role for the co-ordination of emergency personal hardship assistance and support for disaster victims.

    “Locally-based departmental staff will be supplemented by staff who'll be brought in from Brisbane as part of the state co-ordination team.

    “Three types of personal hardship assistance are provided by the Communities Department:

    - Emergency help – available in the immediate aftermath for food, clothing, accommodation and medical supplies;

    - Essential household contents – available for the replacement and repair of uninsured essential household contents damaged or destroyed by the cyclone; and

    - Structural repairs – to help return owner-occupied, uninsured premises damaged by the disaster to a safe, habitable and secure state.

    “The Department also operates the Queensland Government toll-free disaster relief number (1800 44 00 74) for emergency financial relief and counselling, advocacy and similar support services.

    Ergon Energy and Powerlink are placing an immediate focus on identifying faults and ensuring safety of the electricity network, then bringing the power back on wherever they can as a matter of priority.

    “Helicopters and ground access (where possible) are being used to inspect power lines and general electricity infrastructure, and to take work crews to the stricken areas.

    “Large trees across power lines, severe damage to conductors and at least one collapsed high voltage tower are the major problems that have to be addressed.

    “A total of 29 large portable generators supplied by both Ergon Energy and Energex from around the State, will be employed as an interim, emergency measure.

    “The portable generators will be allocated on a priority basis to support critical infrastructure.

    “Seven of the generators are already being set up in Innisfail so they can be plugged into priority areas as soon as the relevant parts of the system are declared safe and ready for use by work crews.

    “The other generators will arrive in the area over the next 24 hours.

    “About 400 Ergon staff will be assisted in the power restoration effort by about 30 Energex staff.

    “Ergon Energy is moving people from around the State; however they also advise that in the short term, some southern staff need to be held back while progress of Cyclone Wati is monitored.

    Queensland Health has reacted quickly and efficiently.

    “A number of hospitals were damaged. Herberton Hospital has no mains or emergency power; no communications; water and sewerage damage. A small generator is being sent to the hospital.

    “Babinda and Atherton hospitals have sustained minor damage and all are operating on emergency power.

    “Innisfail Hospital’s emergency department will continue to operate but the rest of the hospital will be closed due to power and water supply problems.

    “A doctor and four nurses have arrived from Townsville to help out.

    “In addition three nurses from Cairns Base Hospital are due to arrive in Innisfail tonight. Two doctors and four nurses from Cairns Base Hospital Emergency Department are expected at Innisfail tomorrow.

    “A pharmacist from Cairns Base Hospital is on the way to Innisfail to help the hospital’s Emergency Department continue operating.

    “The hospital has suffered minor damage, including broken windows, doors and shutters and some leaks but no major structural damage.

    “Fuel for the hospital’s generator became a problem as all the petrol bowsers in the town no longer are operating and generator fuel was due to run out later today, leaving the hospital powerless.

    “Mains water supply is cut and hospital is relying on water tankers refilling its holding tank for water.

    “Arrangements have been made to transfer 19 patients from Innisfail to other hospitals today.

    “Arrangements were made for the evacuation of 11 haemodialysis patients from Innisfail to Cairns on two government flights today.

    “Babinda Hospital has suffered minor damage throughout, blown in windows, blown off shutters and doors, a number of leaks in the roof but no major structural damage.

    “The Royal Flying Doctor Service will be providing a doctor and a nurse to Babinda Hospital today to offer some relief to staff.

    “A maintenance team from Cairns Base Hospital – with a generator and satellite phones - has been sent to help restore services at Herberton Hospital.

    “Public health messages have been circulated about water safety, disease, and other clean-up issues and staff are working to ensure water supply safety.

    “The Department of Local Government has a Natural Disaster Relief Assistance program in place.

    “Funding is available to councils to restore their assets to pre-disaster standard following activation of a natural disaster event by the Minister for Emergency Services.

    “Applications will be given the utmost priority to assist councils with the clean up.

    “Discussions have been held with the Local Government Association of Queensland regarding the coordination of local government’s response to the cyclone.

    “The Local Government Association of Queensland will be pooling the resources of local governments across the State and offering specialist services to the affected region (engineering, construction, disaster management etc).

    “The Queensland Government will work closely with the Association throughout this process and will provide funding through the assistance program for the costs incurred by councils who provide assistance.

    Sport and Recreation Queensland has made available the Lake Tinaroo and Magnetic Island Recreation Centres as emergency accommodation.

    “Lake Tinaroo has capacity to accommodate about 110 people and Magnetic Island has capacity to accommodate about 80 people.

    “The Local Government Department’s Cairns Office is a member of the Cairns District Disaster Recovery Group. Eight staff have made themselves available to support the response.

    Police have set up a Major Incident Room in Cairns and have about 500 officers assisting in the disaster area, with about 50 of them in Innisfail.

    “Police are co-ordinating traffic management, co-ordinating resources and assistance by other agencies and helping co-ordinate information.

    “The Police telephone assistance line (1800 100 188) to help people enquiring about evacuations received about 4,000 calls yesterday, and Red Cross volunteers are helping staff the phone line around the clock.

    “Minister for Public Works and Housing Robert Schwarten and senior Housing and QBuild staff have arrived in Innisfail today to begin assessing the work that needs to be done to repair public housing and other public buildings including schools.

    “In addition, the government's supplier of office and school supplies and equipment, is investigating what will be needed to help ensure schools are properly equipped when they are safe to re-open.

    “And Q-Fleet is making available a number of vehicles for use by emergency and volunteer workers in the community.

    Employment and Training officers on the ground are currently investigating the impacts of employment losses to determine what programs will be appropriate to implement.

    “Innisfail TAFE is still being used as an evacuation centre, with about 20 people there.

    “Generator power is available but there is no water and there are problems with toilets.

    “All schools in the Atherton, Cardwell, Eacham, Herberton and Johnstone shires remain closed.

    “Innisfail High School has been largely destroyed and TAFE will liaise with Education Queensland about the possibility of making space for high school students available in Innisfail TAFE.

    “The Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries is arranging to assess damages, process claims and provide assistance and advice as soon as possible, certainly in the next 24 hours.

    “An advice service will be established to operate out of the most critically affected farming areas and will consist of teams of highly specialised advisors to assist the local farmers to get on track and start to pick up the pieces.

    “The teams will be able to provide:

    • financial advice,
    • assist with lodging QRAA applications,
    • orchard and crop recovery advice,
    • biosecurity monitoring and advisory services,
    • scientific advice for tree crops, sugar cane and banana crops
    • advice on fisheries

    “The service will also be able to refer farmers to other government agencies and provide some advice on the types services and assistance available.

    “In addition, the teams will assist community groups in monitoring and providing advice on animal welfare difficulties resulting from cyclonic damage.

    “In the first instance inquiries should go to the DPI&F Call Centre on 132 523.

    “Minister for Primary Industries and Fisheries Tim Mulherin will travel to the region on Thursday with industry and Queensland Rural Adjustment Authority representatives.

    “A North Queensland Transport company is moving a generator from Mackay to Herberton Hospital.

    Queensland Rail is transporting washing and toilet facilities and generators and other supplies to the region and is making available refrigerated containers for food supplies.

    “The Cairns to Innisfail rail line is still blocked with debris and powerlines.

    Main Roads has carried out an aerial assessment by helicopter of state-controlled roads and estimates of damage are expected to be available later today.

    Queensland Transport is providing dozens of billboard ‘skins’ to the SES at Innisfail. These are vinyl, huge and strong and will be useful if tarpaulins are not available.

    “The Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Water’s fire management teams from Cairns and Atherton are already in the field assisting to clean-up debris.

    “Local assessments of the damage to the tourism industry are under way. A collaborative tourism industry response is being developed to give direct assistance to tourism industry colleagues affected by the cyclone.”

    Contact: 3224 4500