Ballarat volunteers are continuing to assist in the relief effort after Cyclone Seroja devastated communities in Western Australia.
Cyclone Seroja made landfall as a category three storm late on Sunday, April 11. It brought with it wind gusts of up to approximately 170-kilometres per hour.
It has devastated affected communities - damaging and destroying homes and businesses and bringing down powerlines and fences.
Early last week support from Victoria was requested through the National Resource Sharing Centre, with four deployments already leaving to assist.
Chris Bluett, a volunteer from Ballarat's State Emergency Service unit, was one of the first who put up his hand to assist. With three others from Ballarat and a number of others from across Victoria, he was part of the first team of interstate volunteers to land in the western state and render assistance during a three day deployment late last week.
"We flew into Perth and were then flown in an RAAF Hercules aircraft to Geraldton," he told The Courier.
Once there the Victorian team linked in with a group of SES and Rural Fire Service volunteers from New South Wales and the two formed a taskforce.
With resources stretched on the ground, it meant they arrived with no equipment available for them to use.
One of the first things the crews did was go to Bunnings and almost "clear it out" - purchasing thousands of dollars of necessary equipment such as tarps, rope, ladders and screws.
VicSES has since flown over rescue vehicles and a massive amount of repair equipment.
Mr Bluett said Geraldton was "extremely lucky" that the cyclone hit the coast far north enough so that it was not extensively damaged, with an initial fear the cyclone could destroy more than 8000 homes if it hit the city directly.
However, fallen powerlines meant power was out in the area for several days.
Smaller towns further inland were also impacted.
"Quite a few inland towns and farms were quite seriously impacted," Mr Bluett said.
On the second day the volunteers travelled to Mingenew, located on the "cropping belt".
The volunteers helped out a few residents in the town before visiting a number of outlying farms - up to 30 kilometres away - where roofs had been blown off houses.
The window of one farm house had been blown in, with the force of the wind then blowing an internal wall in.
Many of the people who live on these properties were desperately trying to hire more generators to keep their farm operations going, with it expected that they could be without power for a while yet.
"They're powered off single or double line power lines that go for miles just to one farm.
"Everywhere you go there are powerlines down. We saw large convoys or workers trying to restore power but it's a huge job."
On their final day of deployment, last Friday, the volunteers travelled to Northampton, which Mr Bluett described as "seriously smashed about".
"There were still lots of caravans and cars coming down the national highway," Mr Bluett said, noting that it was the last week of school holidays.
So the first task they undertook was cleaning up the caravan park at Northampton.
"We cleaned up the caravan park, all the fallen trees and signs, and three guys turned up with chippers to throw tree branches through," he said. "In short order we had it ready for people to stay in."
Much of the day was filled with building assessments, in addition roof repairs.
A very old town, many of the houses which had damaged roofs were built with asbestos cement sheeting on the walls.
"It makes it hard to do temporary repairs," he said. "There are serious issues of asbestos around these towns."
It is expected many of these homes may need to be demolished and rebuilt.
Community infrastructure was also damaged, with Mr Bluett working as part of a team to repair the roof of the Northampton District Bowling Club for several hours.
"It is important for community facilities to be put back together," he explained.
"It isn't someone's house but it is an important community facility they need to have in tact for community resilience, recovery and to get back to normal."
Members of the club dropped in at one point to express their gratitude that the volunteers had travelled from so far away to help repair the roof and prevent further damage to the building from rain.
Mr Bluett, a SES volunteer of almost 40 years, said he had "never seen so much devastation in a single town".
"We get storms that rip through Ballarat and knock some roofs off but it's a small area.
"When you see lots of small towns and outlying farms you realise the scale."
While initially thinking they would be doing a lot of work clearing trees during their deployment, most of the work was repairing roofs.
A lot of people were living in damaged houses, while those whose roofs had been ripped off were forced to move out or live in temporary housing on their properties.
"The effects on these communities will go on for months, if not longer," he said.
Mr Bluett said seeing the destruction was "confronting".
With resources so stretched due to the widespread damage, many of the people they went to assist hadn't yet seen any emergency services since the cyclone hit.
With power still out across much of the area when they were there, communities did not have mobile phones or televisions, so the volunteers actually knew more about what was happening than those living in the state.
"They were in a communication black out," Mr Bluett said.
While he has seen a lot of roof damage during his years as an SES volunteer, in these circumstances their role was not only to fix damage but also to talk to community members.
Some of these people were distraught - in one case a farmer's wife begged for the volunteers to put a tarp over a house, but it was impossible for them to do so.
The response phase - which includes assessments and temporary repairs - is expected to continue for several weeks, with deployments from Victoria expected to continue into May.
A third group of Victorian volunteers travelled to the affected area on Wednesday, including four from Ballarat.
This includes Ben Lynch, who travelled in the first deployment with Mr Bluett.
Country Fire Authority, Forest Fire Management Victoria and Emergency Management Victoria personnel are also assisting the region.
Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp said the agency-wide approach would continue to support WA for as long as required.
"The area impacted by this devastating cyclone is enormous. Emergency services crews from around Australia and the Australian Defence Force are also assisting. Many communities are still without electricity," said Commissioner Crisp.
"I'd like to thank our volunteers, their families and employers who are supporting them in this effort."