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The New Daily
The New Daily
The New Daily

‘Four hours of hell’: Cyclone Ilsa leaves multimillion-dollar damage bill

The owners of a remote roadhouse smashed by Tropical Cyclone Ilsa have vowed to rebuild, despite a multimillion-dollar damage bill for the family-owned business.

The Pardoo Roadhouse and Tavern bore the brunt of the category five cyclone when it crossed the coast early on Friday, with record winds of 213km/h.

By Friday afternoon, Ilsa was tracking inland and east quickly, as a category two system. It was still packing wind gusts up to 170km/h, with a red alert still active for communities from De Grey to Telfer and Parnngurr.

Will Batth, one of the roadhouse’s owners, said he was lucky to be alive.

“It was like four hours of hell,” he said.

“I am just lucky to be alive at the moment.

“All the roof is gone, everything else is gone, any accommodation dongas we had, everything’s blown away – there’s not even one wood pile left from them.”

Pardoo Roadhouse, 151 kilometres north-east of Port Hedland, said it planned to rebuild despite a massive clean-up ahead.

“We are all still a bit shaken and emotional to see the damage from Cyclone Ilsa,” it said in a Facebook post.

“She may have wiped us out, but she can’t take away our spirit. We face a massive clean-up with plans to rebuild.”

Photos show the roof completely gone, a broken glass door and collapsed ceilings. The owners said they would launch a GoFundMe page to help pay the estimated $4 million damage bill.

“We are insured but we are in a very remote area and we estimate the rebuild will cost a lot more than that,” owner Kelly Anne said.

“This is not just where we work, this is our home and a community for nearby FIFO workers, truckies, and of course travellers.”

Telfer gold mine operator Newcrest Mining said it was too early to know the impact of the cyclone as it continued to pass through the area.

“Our first and foremost priority is the safety of our people, and we can confirm that the small number of personnel who remained on site are currently safe and secure in the purpose-built facility,” the gold miner said.

It was back to business in Port Hedland.

Australia’s busiest port reopened on Friday morning after the mining town was spared from the wrath of Cyclone Ilsa, with mining set to resume by Friday evening.

Residents sheltered overnight in Port Hedland but emerged to find the town relatively unscathed.

Mayor Peter Carter said he was awake for most of the night, listening to howling winds when the wind and rain suddenly died about 1.30am.

“I was up most of the night, watching the trees, thinking here it comes, then all of a sudden it just died off,” he said.

“It had an eerie feel, really strange – Mother Nature does interesting things. We dodged a major bullet last night.”

WA Department of Fire and Emergency Services incident controller Glenn Hall said authorities were focused on getting boots on the ground in towns across the region, including Marble Bar and Nullagine to work out what help was needed.

Cyclone Ilsa makes record-breaking landfall

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WA Acting Emergency Services Minister Sue Ellery said Ilsa was the first category five cyclone – the highest level – to make landfall in the state since 2009.

“It’s brought very destructive winds and heavy rail to an area between DeGrey and Pardoo Roadhouse,” she said.

She said Ilsa was still moving east as a category two cyclone.

“There are several remote communities and mining operations which are yet to be impacted,” Ms Ellery says.

“To all of the communities in the Pilbara and the Kimberley, please take care of yourselves, your family members and stay safe.”

BOM meteorologist Todd Smith said it was likely an offshore wind gust of 289km/h recorded at Bedout Island – before measurements stopped working – would go down as an Australian record.

“It just shows how strong this system was when it was approaching the coast,” Mr Smith said.

“The fact that the cyclone took a south-eastward shift in the track late yesterday afternoon really means that Port Hedland dodged a bullet last night.

“Most of the impacts as we’ve seen are further to the east, and the impacts in Port Hedland were really light with the system tracking about 150 kilometres further along the track.”

He said Ilsa had passed over Telfer, where there was still a cyclone warning. Other communities in the Great Sandy Desert, including Kirrakurra, were also at risk.

“I wanted to just really emphasise for those communities, even though the system has crossed the coast, please remain vigilant,” he said.

“We are expecting damaging to destructive winds today and into this evening as the system continues to track towards the east.”

-with AAP

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