Australian Credit Union Reacts to Category 5 Storm
NORTHEAST QUEENSLAND, Australia - The name was Larry not Katrina, but it was a category 5 storm that roared over Northeast Queensland with winds clocked at over 180 mph on March 20th. Larry was labeled a cyclone, which is what Australians call hurricanes. Roofs were ripped off buildings, banana plantations lost their entire crops, electricity was cut off and 80% of the houses and other types of buildings were damaged in some way. One of the hardest hit towns was Innisfail where Electricity Credit Union has one of its three branches. Innisfail is mainly a farming community of 8,500 residents. All three branches were impacted and the credit union is responding to help the communities of Innisfail, Mission Beach and Herberton rebuild. They also need to do their own rebuilding. Mission Beach branch was inaccessible for four days and the power was cut. Staff began providing limited services only last Friday, March 24th. The Innisfail branch lost its roof and is totally water damaged. The Herberton branch was affected by lack of power, but staff provided limited services within a couple of days. It took the manager of the Herberton branch two days clearing fallen trees just to get his car out of his garage, but otherwise ECU staff reported their homes were standing. All Rediteller ATM and CU branch services between Townsville and Cairns were affected for three to four days. These included ATM and branch cash delivery/collection, maintenance and physical security. No losses have been reported. ECU staff is checking whether any of its borrowers have lost homes/businesses and will then determine what help it can provide. Because the credit union sells insurance they have set up two caravans in Innisfail to talk with people who need help with their insurance or loan claims. Loan insurance providers have extended their hardship relief parameters to allow temporary deferment on repayments on a case-by-case basis. Larry was the third cyclone to directly hit Innisfail since 1918. This time no one was killed. This time there is a credit union to help.