There is nothing like ‘live and local’…..

Staff Writer

It has been 12 days since Cyclone Marcia hit the coast and inland in Central Queensland. It smashed the coastal towns of Yeppoon and Emu Park, working inland towards Rockhampton and beyond.

All the radio networks were united in their coverage during the emergency window, showing the strength of local radio. Grant Broadcasters taking their brands live in the watch area with not only On-air but online streaming, Southern Cross Austereo’s Brands following suit with local coverage and the ABC with its local resources.

Jason McLean is part of the ABC Capricornia team and he has shared some insight with Radio Today into what unfolded during Marcia. The Good, The Bad and the Ugly.

As most of the country would know, Central QLD was hit with a powerful cyclone on Friday February the 20th, with Yeppoon and the Capricorn Coast plus Rockhampton the worst off. It was a very difficult week for residents following the cyclone, many homes were destroyed with roofs being ripped off , power lines fell, trees and debris were left everywhere, several roads closed and most of us lost power for several days.

My area near the Keppel Marina only had power restored after 6 days. Whilst now it’s estimated close to 90% of residents have had power restored, there are still some others without it, especially those in the rural areas.

Many stories have emerged from this disaster that was Cyclone Marcia…..the good, the bad and the ugly.

Good stories such as the tireless work from the Army, SES and Ergon energy workers who have worked around the clock to restore our lives back to normal. The many businesses who donated goods and services such as food, refrigeration, generators and even power points connected to generators so people could charge their phones. Many good Samaritans helping the elderly who are alone, and many volunteers helping with the clean-up. 

There were some bad stories too. Such as people hogging fuel by filling up numerous gerrycans when they were urged by local officials not to. This also occurred with supplies of ice and supermarket supplies….some people really displayed their greed. The many ‘sight seers’, again defying requests from officials, who drove the roads as if we were some tourist attraction, getting in the way of the emergency workers. 

Then there was the downright ugly……mainly theft. Dozens of generators were stolen from homes, and many belonging to council who were using them to power traffic lights. There was plenty of fuel theft…one man filled up his car and 10 gerrycans, then drove off without paying because there was no power to activate the security cameras. Plus of course in disasters like this, there were numerous stories of looting.

I also feel sorry for the many sports clubs in the region who have had thousands of dollars damage. I interviewed several of them last Saturday on my sports show, who, being amateur clubs, will face difficulty rebuilding unless they get substantial government relief. Quite a few of them were looted too, which only added to the pain. 

Post cyclone, there has been controversy about government relief payments to compensate most people having to throw away food due to no power. When Cyclone Yasi hit North QLD 4 years ago….(I was caught in that too, having been travelling at the time), the criteria for payment was either being forced from your home into an evacuation centre, or having lost power for 48 hours or more. This time, it will only be payable to those who lost power for upwards of 7 days. Considering 80% got their power back in 5 or 6 days, many believe the government is being rather sneaky.

Through all this though……one thing that impressed me was the live and local radio coverage around the clock as the recovery got underway. In this day and age of mass networking and automation… was pleasing the networks of the 3 main stations in Rockhampton allowed them to drop the networking and go live with important updates for residents, information such as services available, when power would be restored to certain areas, you name it……they didn’t miss a beat.

I’ve never spent so much time listening to the radio in my parked car at home, but many did because we had no power, TV or internet. A big thankyou to not only the station I work at, ABC Capricornia….but also to the other 2 stations I’ve previously spent time at, 4RO and Sea FM, for their up to date coverage of the recovery. As I said, all 3 did a magnificent job informing locals what was happening. 

It just goes to show there is nothing like ‘live and local’…..without it, we may as well have been on a deserted island.

Jason McLean works for ABC Capricornia

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