The Australian Defence Force helped shelter hundreds of evacuees at Katherine Showgrounds as part of the largest ever pre-cyclone evacuation in the Northern Territory.
Evacuees from remote communities poured into one of the NT’s largest towns as Tropical Cyclone Trevor barrelled towards the coast and East Arnhem Land last week.
Royal Australian Air Force personnel from RAAF Base Tindal and Australian Army personnel from the 5th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (5 RAR) worked tirelessly setting up tents and stretcher beds to house hundreds of displaced people.
“We make up about 25 per cent of the population here and for us to do this for our community is very rewarding.”
RAAF Base Tindal Wing Commander Timothy Ferrell said his team jumped into action to prepare for the arrival of evacuees.
“Personnel from RAAF Base Tindal assisted the Katherine community in putting up about 25 tents and accommodation for about 100 personnel,” Wing Commander Ferrell said.
“They finished after midnight, and we were back again the next afternoon with personnel from 5RAR assisting with putting another 200 beds up.
“RAAF Base Tindal is a key part of the Katherine community – we make up about 25 per cent of the population here and for us to do this for our community is very rewarding.”
5 RAR infantry soldier Corporal Jason Finch said that multiple Army trucks transported hundreds of tents, stretchers and a forklift from Darwin to Katherine by road.
“We erected tents and got the stretchers inside the tents, so we could try to beat the storm,” Corporal Finch said.
“We had the SES helping too, along with the police force.
“It was good to get multiple agencies involved and to see how everyone runs together, working in collaboration.”
“Army and Air Force and NORFORCE all working together, it’s really good.”
Borroloola evacuee Mr Keith Rory said that residents had cause for concern, having learnt from the infamous 1974 Cyclone Tracy just how devastating a cyclone can be.
“I’m from Borroloola from the Garawa Clan group. I’ve been living there for nearly all my life,” Mr Rory said.
“As soon as we heard about the cyclone was going to develop, we got the police force coming around saying ‘Start getting your gear and whomever wants to fly up, come to the police station and get your tag ready so you can jump on the plane’,” he said.
“So, we drove away yesterday afternoon at 4pm. Really scary this one.
“[It] will be a shame when we go back and see the damage you know, a real shock. Not only us but the whole of the town of Borroloola residents who come in to do shopping and fly out and fly in.”
Mr Rory said he appreciated the help they were receiving from the uniformed members building the emergency shelter tents.
“Army and Air Force and NORFORCE all working together, it’s really good.
“Make sure you stand strong, you know. You actually gotta,” Mr Rory said.
Before bedding down for the night at the Katherine evacuation centre, Mr Rory paid his respects to all the traditional owners of the Katherine region, past and present.
In the three days following the cyclone, ADF aircraft transported about 450 residents safely back to their local communities.