Residents in remote NT communities question government's response to Cyclone Lam

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As the cost of rebuilding after cyclone Lam is released, residents are questioning the response from the Northern Territory government.

The damage caused by Cyclone Lam to Elcho Island, off the coast of Arnhem Land, has come to more than $47 million.

That's just one of three remotes communities, including Raminginging and Milingimbi, hit hardest by the cyclone. The repair bill is estimated at more than $80 million.

In Galiwinku, the main town on Elcho Island, water, power and sewerage have been restored.

More than 60 houses have been left uninhabitableand at least six completely flattened, leaving hundreds displaced.

Galiwinku resident Djand Ganammbaoo was one of the 240 people living in emergency shelters on the island for the past seven days. She said the conditions at shelter were good and there was plenty of food.

But she wanted to go home. 

“There's something wrong in our house, the wall has collapsed” she said. "We haven't got any way to get in the room that's why I'm staying here."

Traditional owner Geoffrey Gurruwurra ran a mediation service in the town, but his centre was one of the buildings hit hardest by the cyclone and was now just a pile a debris.

"When they said to me 'Your office gone,' I nearly cried," he said.

This afternoon, the Minister for Defence announced that the Royal Australian Air force would airlift stores and supplies for a 300-bed tent camp to help assist in the recovery effort for Elcho Island.

Emergency relief money had also been jointly offered by the NT and federal governments, but many across the Top End felt more should have been done before and after the cyclone hit.

In the 1500-strong community of Milingimbi, the cyclone shelter had capacity for just 300 people.

Julie Turner, a resident of Milingimbi, said people were turned away from the cyclone shelter and told to go back to their homes, with residents unaware of what other buildings in town were cyclone-proof.

She questioned why neither the Army or the police were called in to help.

"For me that's just not good enough," she said. "Because the thing is [that] Aboriginal peoples' lives are just as important and worth the same as a white person’s life."

CEO of the Northern Land Council Joe Morrison said it was unacceptable.

"We understand that there's enormous effort put into dealing with natural disasters particularly in the centre around Katherine, Darwin and Alice Springs but there needs to be greater effort put into some of the more remote areas where the most vulnerable of the Northern Territory residents live," he said.

The three communities will remain in a state of emergency until Friday.

@lauramoates

Source: NITV News

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