A massive cyclone with wind gusts up to 162 mph battered Australia’s sparsely populated northwest coast today after flattening island communities in its path over the past week.
Cyclone Ingrid lashed the remote community of Kalumburu early today, uprooting trees and cutting power and water services to the area’s 330 residents.
“There were a lot of bangs and crashes from building materials flying around,” said police officer Darren Connor, adding that several buildings suffered minor damage in the heavy winds. “It was pretty chaotic out there.”
Cyclone Ingrid first crossed Australia’s northeastern coast last Thursday and has moved west across land and sea, destroying several homes and buildings on three islands. No injuries have been reported.
The tropical cyclone also devastated a luxury resort at Faraway Bay on the coast of Western Australia state, flattening buildings and tossing several dinghies 1,300 feet from their moorings.
Resort owner Bruce Ellison said the resort’s eight cabins, workshop, staff accommodation and generator shed were completely demolished by the cyclone, which struck late Tuesday.
“It’s total devastation,” Ellison said, estimating the damage to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
State Emergency Service spokesman Allen Gale said helicopters and emergency personnel were standing by to fly to the affected areas and appraise the damage, but heavy wind gusts were inhibiting access.
Gale also predicted that heavy rain could flood area rivers, further complicating the task of emergency services.
The Bureau of Meteorology has downgraded Ingrid to a category-two cyclone, and it is expected that the storm will lose cyclone status altogether within 24 hours as it continues its inland path into a largely unpopulated section of Western Australia.
Now into its 13th day, Ingrid has been rated by the bureau as the biggest tropical cyclone ever to hit three Australian states.
A cyclone’s normal duration is four to seven days, said Linda Paterson at the bureau’s Cyclone Warning Centre in Western Australia’s capital, Perth.