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Cyclone Debbie highlights building failure issues

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Cyclone Debbie exposed a range of building failures, including risks from garden shed debris and damage from wind-driven rain entering homes, the Cyclone Testing Station at James Cook University says.

The area reviewed by the station included Bowen, Proserpine, Airlie Beach, Hamilton Island, Dingo Beach, Wilson’s Beach and Conway Beach, which were hit by the cyclone as it crossed the coast on March 28.

“The buildings within the study area were estimated to have experienced wind speeds lower than their relevant design wind speed,” the Townsville-based centre says in a new report. “However, there were many observations of damage to contemporary construction.”

Reports of wind-driven rain entering buildings were widespread, with the report recommending a focus on developing strategies to reduce the risks during future cyclones.

Many garden sheds also failed, leading to wind-driven debris endangering nearby structures.

“Because their failure has consequences for other buildings, they should be designed and built to resist the site windspeed,” the report says.

It highlights the importance of regular maintenance and recommends roof space inspections for all buildings every seven to 10 years.

The Cyclone Testing Station also proposes minimum design and construction standards for paling and sheet fences in cyclone-prone regions, and suggests improvements to prepare for storm surge and wave action damage.

The Insurance Council of Australia estimates losses from Cyclone Debbie and related flooding in northern NSW at $905 million from around 56,000 claims.