Australia: Whitsunday Islands region reopens after Cyclone Debbie clean-up

After a colossal clean-up operation, much of the Whitsunday Islands region has reopened. Source: Flickr/Richard Rydge

CYCLONE DEBBIE wreaked havoc on the idyllic Whitsunday Islands off the coast of Queensland, Australia, but more than a month later, normality is beginning to return.

After a colossal clean-up operation, much of the region has reopened and tourism operators are keen to spread the word.

In a bid to entice holidaymakers back to the white sands and luxury resorts, Tourism Whitsundays commissioned a video stunt. During the clip 9 News reports, 150 representatives gather on Whitehaven Beach to literally “welcome back” visitors with a colorful beach towel message.

SEE ALSO: Cyclone in north Australia a blow to tourism

Tourism Whitsundays CEO Craig Turner quoted by Escape explained: “It’s important the world knows most hotels have opened their doors, tours are back on the water, and the sun is again shining on the Whitsundays.”

The tropical cyclone which hit the region in late March was a category four storm and the biggest since Cyclone Yasi in 2011. Winds, which reached speeds of 260 km per hour, and torrential rain battered the area for hours, causing flash flooding and extensive structural damage.

Following the storm, island communities, Australian Defence Force personnel and various other agencies worked together to clear ravaged areas and mobilize a repair effort.

The Whitsunday Times reports one local company, Steve Banks Transport and Earthmoving, worked tirelessly for several days to remove waste and salvage boats washed ashore at Airlie Beach

 “Hectic would be the one word to describe it. We haven’t stopped with clean-up and recovery work.” – operations manager Stevon Kemp.

Although the total damage bill could run to billions, attractions including the Molle Island National Park and the Whitsunday Islands National Park as well as island resorts and facilities, are steadily opening again to visitors.

Hamilton Island received its first guests in early April, announcing its partial reopening on its Facebook page.

In an article by the Daily Mercury describing the resort’s clean-up operation, Hamilton Island Enterprises CEO Glenn Bourke said: “No significant structural damage had occurred.” He said, however, vegetation had been uprooted and some of the hotel’s aesthetic features needed repair.

However, plans to refresh qualia – where the lavish pavilion villas are situated – have been brought forward following the storm. The resort expects to be fully operational by August, ready for the illustrious Hamilton Island Race Week.

For some places like the Daydream Island Resort and Spa, recovery will take longer. The island, which is renowned for its reef experiences, endured the full force of Cyclone Debbie.

A piece by the Courier Mail recounts the losses, which include the island’s jetty and two of its iconic mermaid statues consumed by the sea and washed away during the disaster. Pictures taken in the aftermath showed the Rejuvenation Spa, sections of the hotel’s interior and the atrium, were also gutted.

With damage so severe, the resort announced it would remain closed so work can start sooner on its AUD50 million (US$36.7 million) planned refurbishment. As such, Daydream Island is slated to reopen sometime in 2018.