THE impact of last week¹s storm in the Esperance region was so great that the area has been declared

11 Jan, 2007 07:00 PM
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The actual cost and degree of devastation is yet to be fully calculated, with many farmers unable to get around to parts of their property.

According to the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM), several sites broke their highest daily rainfall records including Esperance, where 153.2mm recorded last Friday went well beyond the 106.6mm recorded on January 7, 1999.

The highest rainfall amount occurred at Esperance airport where more than 221mm fell over two days, causing serious flooding in the region.

BOM WA weather services acting manager Neil Bennett said while it was common for the remains of a tropical cyclone to cause heavy rain over inland parts of WA, it was quite exceptional to have it coincide with such a strong trough to the south.

BOM recorded the strongest wind gust at 111km/h (60 knots) at Esperance at 9pm last Thursday. That broke the previous highest January wind gust in Esperance of 104km/h in 1975.

Agriculture Department farm business director Bruce Thorpe said the department had field staff on the ground to assist with stock.

He said there were department zone meetings being held in Esperance and Ravensthorpe to assess the damage to land and stock in the affected areas.

Many farmers had freshly shorn sheep and Mr Thorpe said the department was expecting a minimum of 20,000 head of sheep lost due to hyperthermia.

³The figures cannot be confirmed at this stage, but the Esperance Shire said it may be closer to 100,000,² Mr Thorpe said.

Mr Thorpe said he did not know how many farmers or properties were affected by the storm but by next week the numbers should be close to accurate.

Agriculture Minister Kim Chance visited the affected regions this week to gauge the damage first-hand.

³Farmers have access to a professional advice grant of up to $1,500 to obtain advice specifically related to recovering from the effects of the declared Natural Disaster Event,² he said.

³A loan interest subsidy of four per cent for loans up to $150,000, to assist with repair of infrastructure, replace stock or for carry-on finance is also available, if the ability to obtain finance for those purposes is not possible from within the existing business resources.²

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