After Cyclone Ita: $1B Damage Bill Estimated, Ravages Banana, Sugarcane Plantations, Thousands Remain Without Power

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By Esther Tanquintic-Misa | April 14, 2014 11:19 AM EST

Insurance companies are already expecting damage bill claims from Cyclone Ita could reach $1 billion in North Queensland after it ravaged sugarcane and banana plantations over the weekend. More than 6000 homes and businesses still have yet to get reconnected to the power supply as of Monday.

Reuters
Tropical Cyclone Ita is seen just off-shore near Cape Flattery, Queensland, Australia in this NOAA image taken by the Suomi NPP satellite's VIIRS instrument at 23:35EST April 10 or 03:35GMT April 11, 2014. Torrential rains were forcing residents and tourists to flee coastal areas along the Great Barrier Reef as the strongest cyclone in three years barrelled across the Coral Sea for the Australian mainland. Tropical Cyclone Ita is forecast by meteorologists to cross the coast near Cooktown on Australia's far northeast coast between 1100 and 1400 GMT. REUTERS/NOAA/NASA/Handout via Reuters

Cooktown, Townsville, Ingham, Mackay and Cairns were just some of the affected areas.

Queensland state Premier Campbell Newman said priority will be made in reconnecting water, electricity and telecommunications. Ergon Energy on Sunday has managed to restore power to 20,000 properties but Mr Newman said it could be weeks without electricity for the worst-hit areas.

Banana trees on an 80 hectare property in Hope Vale, north of Cooktown, a joint government and council scheme, were razed down on Friday night. Damage bill on this incident alone could hit $1 million. Started in 2012, the plantation provide jobs for locals in the remote community of 1500.

"We get knocked down, we get back up again," Hope Vale Mayor Greg McLean told AAP. The mayor is optimistic that once replanted, crop from the farm would be out within eight months.

Rob Whelan, Insurance Council chief executive, said priority will be given to those affected by Cyclone Ita. He said they are yet to receive a bulk of claims as of Monday as people are yet to go back to their damaged homes.

"This is an emerging natural disaster situation and the full extent of the damage may take many weeks to determine,'' Mr Whelan said. "Cyclone Ita claims will be prioritised.''

Helena Blum, principal or Cairns-based brokerage Big Tree told Insurance Business that thanks to the increasing preparedness of locals in Queensland, Cyclone Ita had not been too bad so far.

"We have been really lucky so far. The cyclone was not as bad as expected and people in Far North Queensland know that cyclone season is November to April and prepare for it. However Cairns is quite transient - you get travellers and backpackers coming in and they do not know what is going on. Residents do and mitigate risks."

Cooktown, which bore the brunt of the storm, had four buildings destroyed and another 50 damaged by the storm.

Flooding damaged up to 20 homes while it cut 30 off in the tourist town of Port Douglas.

The Bureau of Meteorology said Category 1 Cyclone Ita will slowly transition into an ex-tropical cyclone on Monday. But locals should still expect rain, strong winds and rough seas along the coast over the next few days.

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(Photo: Reuters / )
Tropical Cyclone Ita is seen just off-shore near Cape Flattery, Queensland, Australia in this NOAA image taken by the Suomi NPP satellite's VIIRS instrument at 23:35EST April 10 or 03:35GMT April 11, 2014. Torrential rains were forcing residents and tourists to flee coastal areas along the Great Barrier Reef as the strongest cyclone in three years barrelled across the Coral Sea for the Australian mainland. Tropical Cyclone Ita is forecast by meteorologists to cross the coast near Cooktown on Australia's far northeast coast between 1100 and 1400 GMT. REUTERS/NOAA/NASA/Handout via Reuters
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