By James Wells

CAIRNS: The 290 km/h winds of Cyclone Larry which yesterday claimed 90 per cent of Australia’s banana production and 40 per cent of Australia’s sugar crop has spared electrical stores in the Far North Queensland city of Cairns.

Ashley Balderson from Status Plus in Cairns, who was attending a Narta meeting in Sydney on Monday when the storm hit Far North Queensland said that apart from some signage blown off in the strong winds, there has been no structural damage to his store.

“We are thankful and appreciative that no one has been harmed. We feel strongly for those people that have lost everything that they own in the township of Innisfail and surrounding areas. Our thoughts and prayers go out to them,” Balderson told after returning to his store a couple of hours ago.

“The impact of this disaster has not yet been realised. Thousands of people have lost all of their livelihood and primary producers have been set back five years. The community is devastated. There are a lot of people without power, sewage and fresh water. Times are tough and all eyes are looking to the east, for the possible arrival of the next cyclone,” said Balderson referring to the category two Cyclone Wati, which is brewing about 2,000 kilometres east of Cairns.

According to Kennedys Retravision assistant manager, Janelle Given, all 54 staff excluding casuals were at work today one day after the storm, which one local politician said has caused $1 billion worth of damage.

“The shop’s still here which is a start,” Given said.

“We didn’t have any damage done to the building or our spare parts and service division.”

Given said that the Retravision Edmonton store, a branch store to Kennedys, was currently running on an electric generator.

Given described the outlying areas of Cairns as a “disaster zone”.

“It was really frightening, it wasn’t particularly fun to be in – thank god everyone was prepared. Our power went off at 2.30am on Monday morning and the winds really picked up from 5.00am until 9.00am.

“It has been extremely quiet today in the shop. Power is still out to the majority of homes and I think the main focus for the people of Cairns is getting their houses into order.

“We expect our business will come back again at the end of next week when people discover any damage to their electrical products or realize they need a new appliance.”

“Maybe stores like Bunnings are going to be busier at the moment as people try to obtain some normality in their lives. For many people, I think it is still sinking in that this has just happened.

“Our staff didn’t have any expensive damage done to their properties. A lot of staff have gone through a cyclone in the past and we kept in contact via our mobile phones and with SMS text messages. The key was that there was no complacency,” she said.

Peter Schramm’s Retravision store at nearby Innisfail, where the cyclone hit hardest, has apparently suffered far more damage than the Cairns stores.

"Our thoughts go out to Innisfail Retravision who really copped it hard – it is lucky they still have a building there," Given said.