After a rare tropical cyclone blew roofs off homes and flattened flimsily constructed houses as it crossed the coast on Sunday night, tens of thousands of people in Western Australia were without electricity on Monday.
When the category three storm made landfall with winds of up to 170km/h, officials said about 70% of the structures in the coastal town of Kalbarri, about 500km (310 miles) north of the state capital Perth, were destroyed.
WA Emergency Services Commissioner Darren Klemm told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that about 30% of the damage was "huge." Local media confirmed that the region had not seen a cyclone like this in at least 40 years.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison wrote on his official Facebook page, "The situation in Western Australia remains very critical," adding that the federal government's emergency response plan had been triggered.
According to the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) in Perth, the cyclone, called Seroja, was downgraded to a category two system after making landfall and eventually went back out to sea in the early afternoon. Showers and gusty winds were expected to persist, but not to become extreme, according to the forecast.
Social media photos and local broadcasts showed downed power lines, rubble, and houses without roofs or walls. State authorities in Western Australia have opened three evacuation centers for displaced people.
Ella Curic, who lives in Kalbarri, told the ABC that the cyclone had “flattened” the area, which is a popular tourist destination. They were having dinner at the dining room table when the roof of their next-door neighbor "came through the window."
Curic told the broadcaster, "The glass broke, it all happened really fast, so we gathered the kids and ran to the laundry." “It was completely crazy. The house was being impaled with timber. It was very unsettling.”
Since houses and other structures were not designed to withstand tropical cyclones, which seldom occur this far south, the area was on high alert for the storm.
The BOM said, "This is a rare weather event for people in the southern and eastern parts of WA."