NSW Premier Kristina Keneally inspects tornado damage yesterday morning at the Lake Ainsworth Caravan Park with NSW SES Commissioner Murray Kear (centre) and NSW Emergency Services Minister Steve Whan.
NSW Premier Kristina Keneally inspects tornado damage yesterday morning at the Lake Ainsworth Caravan Park with NSW SES Commissioner Murray Kear (centre) and NSW Emergency Services Minister Steve Whan. Jay Cronan

Lennox residents begin clean-up

REALITY hit hard for residents of tornado-ravaged Lennox Head yesterday, as they started the huge job of cleaning up the disaster zone.

Millions of dollars could be spent fixing the damage to Lennox Head homes, roads and buildings, and the entire process will take months, if not years.

No one was killed in the tornado, which struck at 7.30am on Thursday, but at least six people were injured.

Twelve homes sustained major damage and a total of 30 homes were affected. But most of the debris was rem-oved from roads and parks by yesterday afternoon.

The SES called in reinforcements from Namoi, near Gunnedah, bringing the total number of its volunteers on the ground to 65.

Richmond/Tweed SESregional controller Scott Hanckel said teams had worked ‘fairly quickly’.

“The silver lining of this dark cloud is that the community has really rallied together,” he said. “It has brought everyone a lot closer.”

In her first official trip to the Northern Rivers, Premier Kristina Keneally visited Lennox Head yesterday morning to declare the Ballina and Byron shires natural disaster areas.

It means the two local councils can access emergency funding to pay for repairs to public infrastructure, such as roads and buildings.

But Ms Keneally said residents whose homes were damaged by the 150km/h winds of the tornado would have to rely on their insurance companies.

“These are just extraordinary scenes,” she said as she surveyed the damage at the Lake Ainsworth Caravan Park, where vans were upturned. It’s amazing no one was killed or seriously hurt.

“Emergency service workers are used to seeing pretty bad damage, but after talking with them ... I think the scale and the ferocity of the tornado has shocked even them.”

The Commonwealth will also offer assistance through the Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements. Grants and loans are available to low-income earners, businesses and not-for-profit and volunteer groups.

Ballina mayor Phillip Silver said the disaster zonedeclaration was a relief.

“We were a bit worried for a while,” he said. “But now we can get on with the clean-up and we don’t have to worry about how much it is going to cost us,” he said.

The council will offer free trips to the dump for storm-affected residents, and there could be a kerbside pick-up service in Lennox Head in the coming days.

State Ballina MP Don Page praised emergency workers.

“The police, SES, ambulance and other emergency service workers are fantastic. I couldn’t fault them,” he said.

Richmond MP Justine Elliot also toured the devastation yesterday afternoon.

Sandra Van Dijk, from the Insurance Council of Australia, said it was too early todetermine the exact cost of damage to private property.

Electricity was being restored progressively across Lennox Head, with Country Energy checking each house before reconnecting power.

Regional general manager Richard Wake said the storm cut power to 1200 customers.

Meanwhile, fundraising efforts have begun. Former Ballina band Brittle is planning a benefit gig and Southern Cross Credit Union and the Lennox Head Chamber of Commerce have launched an appeal.

Donate at any Southern Cross Credit Union branch to Lennox Head Chamber of Commerce, BSB 802185, acc/no 137897, acc-ount name Lennox Head Chamber of Commerce Inc.



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