Branches, corrugated iron and other debris littered the ground as floodwater receded in North Queensland after Cyclone Yasi devastated the region in February 2011.
It’s been 10 years since that deployment, and Sergeant Anthony Mann, who was posted to B Squadron 3/4 Cavalry Regiment at the time, remembers the scene.
“You could see personal belongings and household items around the streets, away from any houses,” he said.
“What the power of the cyclone did to the area was crazy. I was in awe.”
In a protected mobility vehicle, Sergeant Mann and his team navigated around fallen power lines, uprooted trees and sections of torn-up bitumen that had been hurled onto the hillside so they could deliver food and water to residents cut off from main roads.
One of those residents was an elderly woman who couldn't contact her family.
“She didn't have a working phone so we called her son from my mobile,” Sergeant Mann said.
“He hadn't heard from her in a couple of days. He was grateful to know she was safe and had supplies.”
During Operation Yasi Assist, ADF personnel supplied almost 75 tonnes of stores and cleared the yards and grounds of about 200 properties across the Townsville, Innisfail and Cairns districts.
Sergeant Mann had spent seven years posted to Townsville, with another three ahead.
He said it didn’t think about it back then, but being able to help his community was rewarding.
“It's great knowing we have the capacity to help out if something does go wrong,” Sergeant Mann said.
“Not everyone gets to help people that way.”
A decade on, Sergeant Mann is posted to 2 Cavalry Regiment where a contingency force element is on standby for disaster relief efforts.
“We learned from the Yasi experience and we’re better prepared for these kinds of events if they happen again,” he said.
During Operation Yasi Assist:
- more than 1200 ADF personnel were deployed to help emergency services and those affected by the cyclone
- the ADF supplied approximately 3300 ration packs across the Cairns and Innisfail districts
- ADF personnel removed debris from roads covering about 420km in the Townsville, Cairns and Innisfail districts
- in the Townsville and Innisfail districts, about 5450 homes were visited by ADF personnel, either to evacuate those at the home or to provide information.
- ADF personnel also evacuated patients from the Cairns Hospital and a Townsville nursing home who were at risk from the cyclone.