It is less than four weeks since Clare Sheehy of Ballymulvey, Ballymahon, left the north Australian town of Tully to return to Melbourne, Victoria. It was a decision that some might say was divinely guided as Clare narrowly escaped Cyclone Yasi, the biggest cyclone in a century to hit Australian shores. In its path stood the small rural town of Tully.
"We still had friends in Tully, including my best friend Andrea, when the cyclone hit. They were working on a banana farm, " said Clare speaking to The Leader. "There were about ten Irish there and they were all evacuated to a bar. It was the only solid building and that's where they had to stay."
Initially there was little contact between Clare and her friends in Tully, she has received sparse reports via their family members in Ireland.
"The winds were really strong and there was horrific rainfall. Parts of the roof came off and they were under mattresses," said Clare, a former student of Ballymahon Mercy Convent. "The army has arrived with food supplies but there is no electricity and it may not be back for a month."
Currently Clare has no way of contacting her friends as the phone lines are down and their mobile phones are not working. All contact has come from one mobile phone owned by an Australian resident at the farm.
In the aftermath of Cyclone Yasi, the Australian agricultral industry is now facing a huge challenge.
"A lot of the farms up there are banana and sugar cane and they have all been wiped out. It's a massive blow for local employment and for backpackers," said Clare, a daughter of Dermot and Valerie Sheehy. "In Tully alone 90% of the buildings were damaged in some way through broken windows etc. It's going to take a long time for them to recover from this."
Despite the severe weather conditions that Clare has experienced in Australia she still hopes to remain there for another year.
"I'm here 10 months now. I love Australia. I never thought it would be like this with flooding, cyclones and all these things. However, I'm back in Melbourne now and although we're getting heavy rains (from the tail end of Cyclone Yasi), I really love it here," she said.
Cyclone Yasi hit the Australian state of Queensland in recent weeks causing winds of up to 300 km/hour. Some 177,000 homes were left without electricity throughout the state. Despite the devastation no loss of life has been reported.