Disaster - and that's official
By Alex Easton
LISMORE has been given access to millions in State and Commonwealth funding after the city was yesterday declared a natural disaster zone by NSW Emergency Services Minister Nathan Rees. The declaration follows Tuesday's intense storm, which rained tennis ball-sized hailstones across Lismore causing millions of dollars in property damage and injuring at least 21 people. Mr Rees put the damage bill for Lismore at '$6 million and rising', but Rob Seabert, of the NSW Department of Commerce, said that figure did not include damage to cars or stock damage in shops, and that the true cost would be much higher. NRMA Insurance said it had received about 1400 claims by lunchtime yesterday mostly for cars damaged in the storm. CGU Insurance reported about 200 claims, mostly for home and contents., and CommInsure reported about ???? claims. And the city may not be out of trouble yet, with more intense storms predicted today and tomorrow. Bureau of Meteorology senior severe weather meteorologist Michael Logan said the bureau 'hoped' today's and tomorrow's storms would lack the power of Tuesday's event, or that they would miss the city. Even without a renewed hail storm, continuing rain was adding to the damage, State Emergency Service spokesman Phil Campbell said. Mr Campbell said there were about 100 volunteers from the SES, the Rural Fire Service and the NSW Fire Brigade some from as far away as Dubbo working to patch up the city. Many of those such as crews working at St Andrew's Anglican Church were racing to get basic repairs in place before the next storm front reached the city and dumped more water through Lismore's smashed windows and leaking roofs. Mr Campbell said trained volunteers were using helicopters to make low passes over the city to spot damaged roofs and prioritise work. Lismore mayor Merv King said the storm was the worst he had seen in his 75 years. Deputy Prime Minister Mark Vaile said he had inspected some of the damage in Lismore on Tuesday night, ahead of appointments at Clovass and Grafton yesterday and had briefed Prime Minister John Howard.