Dozens of people forced to live in tents in a Northern Territory remote community for the last three years have been displaced due to the damage caused by ex-Tropical Cyclone Ellie.
- Ex-Tropical Cyclone Ellie passed over Peppimenarti as a category one system late on Thursday night
- A senior traditional owner says around eight homes were destroyed three years ago, but had never been repaired
- The tents those families had been living in were damaged as the cyclone passed over the community
The system passed over the community of Peppimenarti late on Thursday night, flattening tents where more than 30 people had been living since 2020 when about eight homes were destroyed in ongoing unrest
Traditional owner Regina Pilawuk Wilson said the system brought strong winds travelling over 110kph and heavy rain.
“When we woke up this morning, we’ve [sic] seen all the tents were down, everything was damaged,” she said.
“It was really scary for the kids [they were] screaming when they saw the strong winds.”
Ms Wilson said that over the course of the night, a tent in her backyard that had been housing family members was damaged by a deluge of rain.
Her small three bedroom home, which was already housing 16 people, is now accommodating 20.
Ms Wilson said the wet season weather conditions — which usually see torrential downpours for months of the year, and the community cut off by floodwaters — already made for grim living situations, but the cyclone had made things much worse.
“It’s overcrowded and I’m struggling to keep my family safe in my house,” she said.
“Twenty people are in my house with one toilet, one shower.”
At a press conference in Darwin on Friday morning, Chief Minister Natasha Fyles said there hadn’t been any substantial reports of damage from the cyclone.
And in response to questions about whether it was concerning that people were living in tents at the time of the cyclone, Ms Fyles said the government had been “working efficiently to get as many homes back online as possible to ease those tensions and pressures”.
The NT’s Acting Police Commissioner Murray Smallpage said that while cyclone shelters were available and on hand in the region, they were not needed.
“My advice from people on the ground is that there was inclement weather, but it was not as severe as they anticipated,” he said.
“It was viewed as almost like a normal tropical monsoonal type event. So again, there was no significant impact that I’m aware of from the community of displaced people and everyone had shelter.”
On Friday afternoon, a Northern Territory government spokesperson told the ABC that affected communities were being supported.
“Peppimenarti has not received any significant damage due to Cyclone Ellie. Community stores are stocked and fuel is available,” the spokesperson said.
“Currently there are five homes under construction in Peppimenarti.”
Ms Wilson said that while Tropical Cyclone Ellie — which was downgraded to a tropical low on Friday — caused little destruction elsewhere in the community, dozens of people would continue to struggle.
“People lost everything in their tents. People [have] got no clothes, no blankets,” she said.
“We’re worried about how much food [will get] in the community.
“We are left in the dark.”