CLEAN-UP: A Country Energy crew from Murwillumbah helps clean up damage at Iona Close, Maclean.
CLEAN-UP: A Country Energy crew from Murwillumbah helps clean up damage at Iona Close, Maclean.

Storms a Clarence disaster

By EMMA CORNFORD

Damage bill tipped to be in millions

THE Clarence Valley was yesterday declared a natural disaster zone as a result of Thursday's devastating storms, with the damage bill expected to reach millions of dollars.

Clarence Valley mayor Ian Tiley said first damage estimates for council infrastructure were up to a million dollars.

Although the declaration of a natural disaster area made emergency funds available, Mr Tiley said he was concerned for the number of people without insurance.

"Lots of people have uninsured houses and there is a significant issue of broken windows," he said.

"Money from the Government will be to repair the infrastructure bill of the council, but it doesn't help private householders unfortunately because they are supposed to rely on their insurance. The question is how many people are uninsured."

Minister for Emergency Services Tony Kelly yesterday toured the affected areas around the Lower River and outlined emergency monetary assistance available to residents.

"My first impressions here, it looks like the council has suffered more than half a million dollars worth of damage," he said.

"The declaration of a natural dis- aster area means council pays $25,000 towards that cost and the State Government picks up the tab for all the rest. It also means small business and farmers are able to avail themselves of small interest loans."

According to the Bureau of Meteorology, two separate storm fronts over the Clarence Valley were to blame for the extensive damage of the Lower River area.

Officer in charge at the Bureau of Meteorology Coffs Harbour office, Ashleigh Wilson, said two storms formed in the west.

"I was keeping my eye on the radar yesterday and it did appear that that may have been what happened up there," she said.

"There was one coming from the south west and the other one was from the north. It was heading east, but changed its path and headed slightly south as well ... so two storms hit."

Despite the damage, Ms Wilson said the amount of rain in Maclean was not particularly high.

"Even though there were these severe storms there wasn't a lot of rainfall. Grafton got 32mm and Maclean got 33," she said.

"In front of storms like that you get a lot of galeforce winds coming down and out of the front and that is what would have come through Maclean and caused all the damage."



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