Fraser Coast emergency worker returns from Debbie's devastation
SENIOR Fire Fighter Mal McKay has returned home to the Fraser Coast after seven days of aiding communities affected by ex-Tropical Cyclone Debbie.
He along with thousands of emergency crew personnel from all over Australia were dispatched to storm ravaged communities to aid the recovery after the severe weather event caused wide spread damage.
Whitsunday Islands, Bowen and Mackay were the most affected areas across south-east Queensland, with Airlie Beach experiencing wind gusts of up to 260kmh and 400mm of rain.
As the powerful system headed south, the clean-up began.
A total of 2399 SES crew call-outs were made for the Whitsunday area alone.
Mr McKay, along with Queensland Fire and Emergency Services North Coast Region, were dispatched to Mackay and Airlie Beach, seeing the damage first-hand.
"I was part of the group in the First Incident Management team, we were a mixture of SES, Fire and Emergency, and Rural Fire Service and were there to provide logistical support for all the volunteer clean-up teams, we had to support crews on the ground with food, and accommodation,” Mr McKay said.
"You need a management team back up who can allocate the resources in the correct manner and that was our main focus.”
Mr McKay returned last week after seven days in Mackay and supporting the Divisional Command centres in The Whitsundays and Bowen, and said he had never seen Proserpine so extensively damaged.
"There were quite a few roofs off, roofs and some of the businesses in the main street were damaged, that meant there was displaced people that had to find other accommodation,” he said.
"It was quite evident a lot more modern houses had survived quite well as they were built to building standards, while older houses had a lot of damage.
"Shute Harbour sustained a lot of damage and it remains closed, there were ships sunk in the harbour and others in the mangroves pushed off their moorings.
"People that were in the community had to realise the full impacts on their lives and their families' lives of having to fix their houses and get their lives back to normal.”
Peer support staff were deployed to affected areas to offer critical incident counselling and support for volunteers working away from home who were exposed to people experiencing tragedy.
"Crews in Proserpine had to stay in places where carpet had to be ripped out and cold showers, but we try to stay in local accommodation, even though they were damaged, to help put money back into the community,” he said.
He added it was the community banding together that made the real difference to residents hardest hit.
"They are quite a resilient community, the local Lions, Rotary, Apex and Quota Club organisations opened the closed down RSL to feed emergency workers and families that needed help who had lost power and homes,” Mr McKay said.
"It was fantastic to see the community spirit and how they helped their own community in need.”
Mal praised the preparation efforts of locals and residents who evacuated homes before disaster struck.
"The communities responded very well to the emergency warning from emergency services - it is because of the response by the community listening to these warnings that people weren't hurt,” he said.
"So it is a credit to people heeding to emergency warnings to specific areas.
"People were very happy with what the emergency services were able to do in such a short period of time, the emergency crews have done their job and now it is up to the community.”