The retired general who will oversee relief and reconstruction efforts in cyclone-shattered northern Australia toured the region yesterday and said he could not set a time limit on how long it would take to rebuild devastated towns.
"Ladies and gentlemen, I'm here with my sleeves rolled up and my waterproof boots on," charismatic retired General Peter Cosgrove said in Innisfail, ground zero of the havoc wrought on Monday morning by Category Five Cyclone Larry. "It's time to get to work."
After walking around Innisfail in teeming tropical rain and shaking hands with residents gathered around a free barbecue, Cosgrove pledged to live in the region until his work was done, but said he could not say how long that would take.
"This place has been smashed, this has been a widespread and terrible natural disaster," Cosgrove said.
Cosgrove, who retired last year as chief of Australia's defense forces, is best known for leading a force of international troops into East Timor in 1999 to quell a bloody rampage by pro-Jakarta militias.
"I think it's important not to set artificial timetables," he said when asked how long reconstruction would last.
"Just as when we went into Timor, we didn't know how long it was going to take," he said.
Australian federal Treasurer Peter Costello said yesterday that a package of grants and loans that would assist farmers and small businesses in their recovery would likely cost around A$100 million (US$70 million).
"We can't be sure of the final figure until everybody takes up the loans and the building is done," Costello told reporters in Melbourne.
Earlier, Brigadier Michael Slater, who is commanding the military cleanup activities, said some Innisfail locals had been expressing anger at the slow pace of repairs.
But Slater defended the speed at which his 400 troops were working.
"There are certainly some locals who are venting and taking out their frustrations on the soldiers," Slater told Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio.
"But I don't think they realize the difficulty and complexity of trying to do a rebuild essentially of the infrastructure and the towns that have been affected," he said.
"That can't happen in a couple of weeks. The emergency work can happen very quickly and that has happened," he said.
Slater said the military's fleet of 13 helicopters and dozens of trucks was aiming to ferry aid yesterday to remote farming settlements that have been cut off for days by fallen trees and flooding.
It was unclear how badly the pouring rain was hampering those efforts -- it did not stop electricity workers clambering up poles lining the main highway through Innisfail to repair power lines felled by the storm.
Despite their efforts, there were still 21,000 homes and businesses without power yesterday, said Geoff Bowes, Ergon Energy's manager of regional services.
Over a few hours under gray skies, dozens of combat planes and helicopters roar on and off the flight deck of the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier, in a demonstration of US military power in some of the world’s most hotly contested waters. MH-60 Seahawk helicopters and F/A-18 Hornet jets bearing pilot call signs such as “Fozzie Bear,” “Pig Sweat” and “Bongoo” emit deafening screams as they land in the drizzle on the Nimitz, which is leading a carrier strike group that entered the South China Sea two weeks ago. US Rear Admiral Christopher Sweeney, who is commanding the group, said the tour
Sitting in a lotus position, four men weave glittering beads through gold thread on an organza sheet, carefully constructing a wedding dress that would soon wow crowds at Paris Fashion Week. For once, the French couturier behind the design, Julien Fournie, is determined to put these craftsmen in the spotlight. His new collection, which showed in Paris on Tuesday, was entirely made with fabrics from Mumbai. He said that a sort of “design imperialism” means that French fashion houses often play down that their fabrics are made outside France. “The houses which don’t admit it are perhaps afraid of losing their clientele,” Fournie
A court in Thailand sentenced a 27-year-old political activist to 28 years in prison on Thursday for posting messages on Facebook that it said defamed the country’s monarchy, while two young women charged with the same offense continued a hunger strike after being hospitalized. The court in the northern province of Chiang Rai found that Mongkhon Thirakot contravened the lese majeste law in 14 of 27 posts for which he was arrested in August last year. The law covers the king, queen and heirs, and any regent. The lese majeste law carries a prison term of three to 15 years per incident for
INSTABILITY: The country has seen a 33 percent increase in land that cultivates poppies since the military took over the government in 2021, a UN report said The production of opium in Myanmar has flourished since the military’s seizure of power, with the cultivation of poppies up by one-third in the past year, as eradication efforts have dropped and the faltering economy has led more people toward the drug trade, a UN report released yesterday showed. Last year, the first full growing season since the military wrested control of the country from the democratically elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi in 2021, saw a 33 percent increase in Myanmar’s cultivation area to 40,100 hectares, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime report said. “Economic, security and governance disruptions