Cyclone, Cyclone …

A jam packed, eventful and sad week …

It began with a 600 kilometre road chase from Cairns to Bowen to catch category 2 Cyclone Anthony crossing the coast and giving the town (famous for being the site where the movie “Australia” was filmed) a bit of a shake up. Nuthin’ too serious and a challenge to get newsy frames.

However, all that was about to change as the massive storm system of Cyclone Yasi moved across the Coral Sea from the Fiji area and strengthened to category 5.

Weather experts warned that Yasi was on target to cross the coast somewhere between Cooktown and Bowen on the far north east coast of Queensland with catastrophic results.

The Queensland Government line was even more pessimistic … calling Yasi the worst ever cyclone to grace Australia in modern times. Lives would be lost …

By Monday the City of Townsville was deemed to be at the point of Cyclone Yasi’s arrow. After documenting Bowen’s damage from Anthony we drove up the coast to find a suitably strong, tidal surge proof hotel room in Townsville to await the tempest.

However, first light next morning brought the news that Yasi had turned it’s attention further north and was now targeting my home town of Cairns. So … back in the car for the near 400 km drive home stopping off at various spots en route to do a few ‘preview’ pics.

The priorities back in Cairns were two fold … plan where and how to photographically document the worse case scenario of massive destruction … and to do as much as we could to save our beautiful old timber Queensland style house and all that it contains.

After boarding up, packing up and kissing the house good bye, attention turned to the photographic plan. Rooms were booked at the Hilton Hotel on the waterfront in Cairns and car parks acquired above storm surge level on the second floor of the building next door. Helicopters were placed on standby to be available as soon as the cyclone passed.

Dawn of Cyclone Yasi’s arrival saw thousands of families stream into cyclone rated evacuation centres in shopping centres and schools … they filled quickly and some were turned away. By early afternoon the streets were completely deserted and an eerie calm settled over the town. Major hotels, including our Hilton, had plans in place to lock all guests up for the duration. A bit of polite negotiation with hotel management and we were free to come and go “at our own risk”.

Luckily for Cairns Yasi took a late final twist to the south and zeroed in on the small seaside town of Cardwell … half way between Townsville and Cairns.

Overnight category 5 Yasi, punching winds up to 300 km an hour, smashed it’s way through the Cassowary Coast area from Silkwood in the north, El Arish, Mission Beach, Tully, Hull Heads, Tully Heads, Dunk Island and Cardwell. A storm surge metres high destroyed beach side properties and islands.

For over 7 hours after Yasi crossed the coast we flew around the disaster areas in our chopper documenting the damage and tribulations of the shell shocked residents from the air and on the ground. The next day we returned by helicopter to the remains of famous Dunk Island Resort and spoke to traumatised staff and management.

Out of the many published pics in News Ltd mastheads I made in the early days following, the most striking, I feel, were these two which made it to the front pages of two consecutive days ‘The Courier Mail” …

When time permits I will put together a photo essay of images from this disastrous event.

2 thoughts on “Cyclone, Cyclone …”

  1. Congratulations Brian, they are two wonderful images of an incredible tragedy.I think your work is really poignant and evocative and it’s great to see someone based here in Cairns producing such incredible work.


    Paul Dymond


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