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1974: Cyclone Tracy leaves Darwin devastated

Thousands of people have been left homeless and more than 30 people are feared dead after cyclone Tracy swept through the northern Australian city of Darwin.

Much of the joy of Christmas disappeared as devastating high winds of up to 135mph and driving rain tore through homes, flooded streets and left up to 90% of the town in ruins.

More than 100 people have been injured, many of them critically with deep lacerations, spine and head wounds and it is thought at least 30 people have been killed.

The most seriously injured have been airlifted to safety by the Royal Australian Air Force and commercial airliners.

Four trawlers are believed to be missing and at least one pleasure craft that was at sea has not returned to Darwin harbour.

'Completely wrecked'

Water and power supplies have been cut off in the aftermath of the storm and Dr Jim Cairns, the acting Prime Minister, said that at least a quarter of the city's 40,000 population will have to be evacuated to other state capitals.

Up to 3,000 people a day are expected to be airlifted out of the city.

The aircraft carrier Melbourne is leading seven navy ships north with emergency supplies and medical teams have been flown in from surrounding cities.

Major General Alan Stretton, director general of the National Emergency Organisation, said: "There's no choice but to evacuate Darwin. There's nothing left here to stay for.

"The city has been almost completely wrecked and the unanimous opinion of the people is that it should be bulldozed and rebuilt."

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam, has cut short his European tour to return to Darwin.

Four cabinet ministers are also flying into the area to help supervise the relief operation.

Co-ordinators are calling on doctors and nurses to volunteer for relief work.

According to medical staff at Darwin hospital, there are already signs of a disease outbreak after several chilldren were brought in with water pollution sickness.

In Context
Cyclone Tracy was one of the worst storms in Australia's history.

More than 9,000 homes were ruined and around 65 people were killed by the deadly cyclone.

Another 16 people were never found from the 22 vessels that were at sea when the storm struck.

In the six days after Christmas Day, more than 25,000 people were flown south and another 10,000 fled the city by road.

By New Year the population was reduced to 10,000.

The government immediately announced plans to rebuild the city over a period of five years under the Darwin Reconstruction Commission.

Within four years it had recovered to the point where as many people were living in the area as there were before cyclone Tracy struck.

Darwin was almost entirely rebuilt and the city bears little resemblance now to what it did in 1974.

In 2004, its population was 100,000.


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