Tully woman moves back home 497 days after cyclone Yasi
"I WANT another cyclone" seems an odd statement from a woman who had her home ripped apart by a massive storm 16 months ago.
But for Sarah Jones it is about facing her fears as she took tentative but relieved steps into her new home that has been rebuilt after the wrath of cyclone Yasi in February last year.
"I don’t want the same cyclone, I don’t want to go through losing everything again, but I don’t want to be scared anymore," she said. "I don’t want to live in this world being scared of cyclones because I live in this area.
"You don’t stop living because of where you live."
These are brave comments from a woman who had spent 497 days living out of a suitcase, camping on everything from a neighbour’s couch to a caravan, to clutching a torch on a single mattress in the ruins of her former home.
But as Mrs Jones turned the key to the front door of her new house on Friday, a sense of relief and hope hit her as she walked inside.
"I kind of have to pinch myself that it’s mine," she said.
"My first reaction (to walking in) was ‘Is it really finished?, it was a bit surreal.
"I’ve been coming to the house quite regularly, obviously because it’s my home, but to be able to walk in and not trip over the construction is great."
She moved her few belongings back in over the weekend, although still has no bed, no washing machine, no television and no idea how to get them after needing all the insurance payout to fund the reconstruction.
"I don’t have a huge amount of income so I’ll just have to work it out," she said.
‘Working it out’ is what so many residents of the Cassowary Coast community have been forced to do since Yasi struck and Ms Jones said she knew of at least 20 people who were still waiting to return to their homes.
"I remember after it (Yasi) happened I didn’t comprehend what it takes to rebuild a house," she said.
Cassowary Coast mayor Bill Shannon said a number of people had still not moved back into their homes.
"In my own case, we have work still being done as part of an insurance claim and a friend of mine is still living in a rented home," Cr Shannon said.
"What people have underestimated is the size of the recovery. It was never going to be fixed in 15 months. It’s a three year process.
"We are getting close to the end. $200 million worth of rebuilding approvals work has been done since this time last year."
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Relief: Sarah Jones has returned to her rebuilt Tully house after cyclone Yasi. Picture: BRENDAN FRANCIS