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Ex-cyclone Seroja leaves trail of destruction in WA towns

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Homes, roads and other public infrastructure in WA’s mid-west coastal region suffered significant damage as storm Seroja made landfall as a category 3 tropical cyclone yesterday evening between the townships of Kalbarri and Northampton.

A natural disaster specialist from the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) is being dispatched to WA today to work with local and state government agencies in their efforts to assist impacted communities, a spokesman said.

The spokesman told access remains closed to the affected regions because of the still-dangerous conditions, making it difficult to give an assessment of the potential claims situation.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the Commonwealth Disaster Response plan has been activated, as his administration stands ready to provide resources to support the recovery effort.

“The situation in Western Australia remains very serious, after Cyclone Seroja made landfall as a Category 3 system last night,” Mr Morrison said today.

“Significant damage has already been reported, with the full extent of the impacts still not known.”

Reports from national broadcaster ABC News say the town of Kalbarri, which has a population of just over 1300, has been badly hit with about 70% of its buildings flattened.

There was also significant destruction in Northampton as the cyclone tore through the area, packing in wind gusts of up to 170 km/hour. Geraldton, with a population of more than 37,000, reported major damage as well.

The Bureau of Meteorology warns in its latest update that the ex-cyclone could still generate strong and gusty winds as it moves southeast for the remainder of the day.

“The passage of Seroja has resulted in abnormally high tides which could still cause minor flooding at the coast between Kalbarri and Jurien Bay,” the bureau says. “The threat of serious flooding has passed.”

Meanwhile ICA says in an update today that last month’s flooding catastrophe in NSW and parts of Queensland has led to 39,100 claims to date with an estimated loss of $586 million.