PERTH, Australia — The clean-up bill for Tropical Cyclone Seroja will stretch into the hundreds of millions, with 126 homes along Western Australia’s mid-west coast rendered uninhabitable.

Around 170 properties have been destroyed or severely damaged, and 491 have sustained moderate or minor damage. Around 250 properties are to be assessed.

Department of Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Darren Klemm estimates the cost could be many times spent on the Wooroloo bushfires, which destroyed 86 homes near Perth in February.

“It’d be much more than that. You’re into AUD 100 million ($77.38 million) to AUD 200 million ($154.75 million) — somewhere around there,” he said on April 15.

Premier Mark McGowan said the damage was extraordinary.

“It was a dramatic event, and many people’s homes, livelihoods, and no doubt some people’s mental health, has been impacted by what’s occurred,” he said.

“It’s quite extraordinary to see what the cyclone did to some people’s businesses and homes.”

Power is yet to be restored to 13,500 homes and businesses in the area, and phone connectivity is still severed in some places.

“The power poles basically were snapped off on the way through, and so clearly that will take some time to fix,” McGowan said.

Some 36 public schools have been cleared to open for term two next week, but 10 schools are still being assessed.

Klemm said the government’s primary focus is finding accommodation for a small group of people rendered homeless, restoring phone and power lines, and safely disposing of any asbestos in the storm debris.

Newly appointed Recovery Controller for Cyclone Seroja Melissa Pexton will tour the cyclone-affected areas with the premier and Prime Minister Scott Morrison on April 16.

The trio will visit Kalbarri, which bore the brunt of the storm.

Up to 70 percent of properties in the popular coastal tourist town, 580 kilometers (360 miles) north of Perth, are thought to have been damaged by the cyclone, which hit late on Sunday as a category three storm with winds up to 170km/h (105 miles/h).

Seroja is the third disaster in Australia to be declared an insurance catastrophe this year.

Major floods in New South Wales and southeast Queensland last month have resulted in losses of about AUD 600 million ($464.26 million) from more than 40,000 claims, and losses from the Woorooloo bushfires stand at more than AUD 85 million ($65.77 million) from 995 claims.

More than 700 claims have been submitted to insurers, a figure that is expected to sharply rise as power and telecommunication services are restored in the coming days.

The “catastrophe” declaration by the Insurance Council of Australia ensures all insurers prioritize those claims.

Assessors will move into affected communities once given the green light by emergency services.

The federal government has made available disaster recovery payments of AUD 1,000 ($773.60) per affected adult and AUD 400 ($309.50) per child. The Lord Mayor’s Distress Relief Fund has been activated, which the public can donate to.

(Edited by Vaibhav Vishwanath Pawar and Ritaban Misra. Map by Urvashi Makwana)



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