The clean-up of hazardous asbestos materials begins at Lennox Head after a tornado scattered debris throughout the streets.
The clean-up of hazardous asbestos materials begins at Lennox Head after a tornado scattered debris throughout the streets. Jay Cronan Northern Star

Community rallies after tornado

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.

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

Twelves homes sustained major damage and 30 homes were affected.

But most of the debris was removed from roads and parks by yesterday afternoon.

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

Richmond/Tweed SES region 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.”

NSW 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 150kmh winds of Lennox Head tornado would have to rely on their insurance companies.

“These are just extraordinary scenes,” she said as she surveyed the extensive damage at the Lake Ainsworth Caravan Park, where vans were upturned.

“It’s amazing that no one was seriously hurt or killed.

“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 them.”

The Federal Government will also offer assistance through the Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements.

Grants and loans are now available to low income earners, businesses, not-for-profit organisations and volunteer groups.

Ballina Mayor Phillip Silver said it was a relief the region was declared a natural disaster zone.

“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.”

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.

Ballina MP Don Page said he was pleased the State Government had offered its assistance.

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

Sandra Van Dijk of the Insurance Council of Australia, said it was too early yet to determine the exact cost of damage to private property from Thursday’s tornado.

She said they were “monitoring the situation closely”.

“We’re not expecting to have to declare it a catastrophe at this stage as the damage is not predicted to exceed the $10 million threshold,” she said.

Electricity is being restored progressively across Lennox Head, with Country Energy checking every house before reconnecting the power.

Regional general manager Richard Wake said 1200 customers were without supply immediately following the storm.

Meanwhile, fundraising efforts have begun across the community.

Ballina band Brittle, now based in Melbourne, is planning a benefit gig and Southern Cross Credit Union and the Lennox Head Chamber of Commerce have launched an appeal.

To donate to the appeal, deposit your donations at any Southern Cross Credit Union branch, bsb 802185, account number 137897, account name Lennox Head Chamber of Commerce Inc.

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