Cyclone Ita has finally been downgraded to a tropical low after causing flooding and major damage to crops along Queensland’s coast.
As Cyclone Ita finally runs out of steam after wreaking havoc along Queensland’s coast, farmers are emerging as her biggest victim.
The preliminary damage bill has been estimated at $1 billion since category four Cyclone Ita hit the Queensland coast near Cooktown in far north Queensland on Friday.
It then hugged almost 1000 kilometres of coastline and unleashed heavy winds and dumping torrential rain as far south as Mackay.
The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) on Monday afternoon downgraded Cyclone Ita from a category one system to a tropical low predicted to head further out to sea.
While there was no loss of life or serious injury, Cyclone Ita has flattened cane fields, ruined banana crops, cut the state’s main highway and left a mammoth clean-up task in her wake.
Premier Campbell Newman said he did not want to downplay the cyclone’s impact.
“I really hate the whole idea of people saying we’ve dodged something, because we haven’t,” he told reporters in Ingham, which had been completely cut-off by flooding.
“There are impacts on people’s farms, on their businesses, on their homes, on livelihoods and we’ve all got to work together to help these people out.”
Government assistance for affected farmers is likely to be announced in coming days.
Bowen farmer Carl Walker said it wasn’t only the town’s iconic tomato industry that was left reeling.
“We’ve got beans, corn, capsicums, cucumbers, melons – all those things get affected,” he said.
Local Government Minister David Crisafulli said it was “gut-wrenching” to see flattened cane fields and ruined banana crops as he inspected damage along the coast.
“In this part of the world, it’s the economy – the heartbeat,” he said.
The damage is expected to be felt in consumers’ hip pockets as demand for fruit and vegetables begins to outstrip supply and pushes up prices.
Third generation Ingham cane farmer Steve Guazzo said the storm wiped out 10 per cent of his 250 hectare farm only two months out from harvest time.
About 90 per cent of the Ingham region’s income is linked to sugar cane.
“Any losses we have in the sugar industry in the Herbert has a flow-on effect throughout the community,” Mr Guazzo, who is also vice-president of Canegrowers Australia, said.
Mr Newman said 50 per cent of residents already had their power restored in most affected areas, but the clean-up would continue for some time.
Residents in rural and remote areas would have to wait longer for services to be restored, he said.
At 4pm on Monday, the BOM finally renamed the storm Ex-Tropical Cyclone Ita, with tracking maps showing it moving away from the Queensland coast as a tropical low.