"Cyclone Seroja: Storm makes landfall in Western Australia"
The West Australian town of Kalbarri has suffered widespread damage in the wake of ex-tropical cyclone Seroja, which tore across the midwest coast overnight.
Seroja made landfall south of the town, about 8 pm on Sunday, as a category three storm with wind gusts up to 170km/h.
Kalbarri, a popular tourist town that lies 580km north of Perth, is home to about 1,400 people.
“I’ve never experienced anything in my life like we experienced last night,” resident and caravan park manager Debbie Major told ABC television on Monday.
“It’s only a small town … half of it has been flattened.”
Seroja has now been downgraded to a tropical low but a red alert remained in place for Kalbarri and Northampton.
Residents in those areas were urged to stay home for now.
“There will be powerlines down, there will be other structures that are unsteady,” Emergency services minister Reece Whitby told Perth radio 6PR.
“It will take time to go through town-sites, and communities to make sure everything is safe, to make sure powerlines don’t represent a threat to people's lives.”
An all-clear was issued for Geraldton and the shires of Carnamah, Coorow, Chapman Valley, Irwin, Mingenew, Morawa, Perenjori, Shark Bay, and Three Springs.
Authorities will get a better picture of the damage when crews fly over Kalbarri later on Monday.
Prime minister Scott Morrison said the Commonwealth disaster response plan had been activated and his government stood ready to provide assistance.
Whitby expected the combined state and federal disaster relief to exceed the $18 million spent on the Woorooloo bushfires which destroyed 86 homes northeast of Perth in February.
Reports of property damage and power outages in Kalbarri and Geraldton began to emerge as the storm’s force was felt and residents took shelter by candlelight.
Fallen trees, damaged homes, and wrecked fences could be spotted amid the howling wind and rain, footage on social media showed.