JACQUELINE Steward and 21 other staff members survived a wild night on Bedarra Island on Wednesday that saw Cyclone Yasi leave the five-star resort in ruins.
All emerged safe but traumatised by the experience.
They had been ordered by management to remain on the island when its guests and all the resort’s water craft were evacuated last Sunday.
The family of the former Mudjimba apprentice chef, who secured her “dream job” on the island 12 months ago, had little contact with her yesterday apart from a brief Facebook message and a single text message to say she was safe.
Mudjimba residents Shane Williams and Richard Bichel, who saw out the storm in a bunker at Innisfail where they had gone to prepare Richard’s property for sale, were uncontactable due to a loss of mobile phone service.
Jacqueline texted her mother Janene early yesterday morning to say she was safe and uninjured but needing food.
Hideaway Resorts, which had left staff on Bedarra and Dunk Islands despite the impending category five cyclone, said all staff were safe and accounted for.
It said it was clear both resorts had suffered extensive damage.
“We are currently re-locating all staff from the island to the mainland, other than a skeleton team who will remain to secure the resort, and arrangements are currently being put in place for transfers off the islands, the provision of accommodation, and where required, for counselling of staff on the mainland,” the company said in a statement.
“In addition to attending to staff relocations, Dunk Island Resort general manager David Henry and Bedarra acting general manager Sophia Rutty, who were both with their staff overnight, are currently undertaking a preliminary situation analysis to determine the extent of damage to the properties.
“It is still too early to determine how long the resorts will need to be closed to allow the necessary clean-up and repair works to be undertaken. However, it is clear that the damage is extensive.
“A further announcement will be made in due course in this regard.”
Hideaway Resorts CEO Mark Campbell and director Andrew Menzies flew to Dunk Island yesterday.
The company’s chairman Rupert Greenhough expressed relief staff had survived the cyclone.
He described that outcome as a testament to the planning and preparations undertaken to meet those situations.
It is a view not shared by Jacqueline’s family who remain adamant that staff should have been allowed to leave with guests.
Mrs Steward was angry her daughter and colleagues had been left in the line of fire of Yasi’s full force, huddling on her bedroom floor, protected only by bed bases pushed against doors and windows.
Full details of the staff members’ ordeal are expected to emerge.
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