Valley men helping rebuild lives in QLD
By JULIA ILES AND AAP
THREE Clarence Valley tradesmen have flown to far North Queensland to help Innisfail and surrounding areas rebuild in the wake of Cyclone Larry's destructive rampage.
Byron McLennan, of Grafton, along with Steve Baker and Kent Hermansen, of Woombah, individually called Network Seven's morning show Sunrise last week after a drive to recruit 120 'tradies' with varying skills for 'Operation Sunrise'.
The men, all carpenters by trade (Mr McLennan is also a roofer), will for seven days 'do whatever needs to be done'.
"We have just arrived in Cairns and had a briefing, but don't know exactly what we will be doing, most probably temporary repairs to buildings and help with the demolishing as well as just do whatever we can to make sure people and buildings are safe," Mr Hermansen said.
Each of the men volunteered because they thought it was 'the Australian thing to do'.
"People needed help pure and simple, and they are in dire straits up here at the moment. If it had happened to me I would appreciate the help, to lend a hand is the Australian way," Mr Baker said.
"It is a little slow at the moment, but nobody is disspirited and are all really keen to make a difference, most of the guys here are from around the Brisbane area as it was close to the airport, but we are from Woombah, Byron is from Grafton and there is a guy from Tenterfield."
Mr Baker said he didn't know what the conditions would be like in Innisfail and the surrounding areas, but said he would 'expect the unexpected'.
Mr Hermansen's wife Julie said the three men were chosen at random out of 3100 who volunteered their services.
General Peter Cosgrove, who is co-ordinating the disaster relief, said the road to recovery for Innisfail would be long.
He said plenty of offers had been made in terms of volunteers and equipment, but more 'good old fashioned money' was needed.
"Initial aid packages from federal and state governments in the wake of Cyclone Larry are great, but much more money is needed," General Cosgrove said.
He expected the damage bill would edge towards $1 billion over a number of years.
"I think under the circumstances it all went extremely well," General Cosgrove said.
"Hats off to the people on the ground.
"This is literally a once in 100 years event; the cyclone was almost off the scale and in that regard the plans actually worked so well as to prevent major loss of life, it's miraculous."
He said while disaster plans needed updating, there was no way Larry could have been an- ticipated.