Bonds of Brotherhood

THE hot topic of conversation between brothers is how they’ve come through two of Queensland’s greatest natural disasters – Cyclone Yasi and the 2008 Emerald floods.

After an anxious night knowing a monster cyclone was unleashing hell on North Queensland, Lochington grazier Lawrie Hawkins picked up the phone at 8am yesterday and waited for youngest sibling Bruce to answer.

“I was relieved… just happy to know my family is all good,” Lawrie told Central Queensland News of the moment he heard his brother’s voice reassuring him everyone was safe.

“I rang first when the cyclone was 300km out and they were getting wind then and battening down.

“(When Yasi hit) They were sheltering another six people, including one woman who was heavily pregnant and the officer in charge of an army base nearby.”

Bruce Hawkins is no stranger to Emerald, having lived in the district when he was younger before working for an American oil company and travelling the world.

He married a Thai woman, Som, and with their two teenaged children, Melissa and Reece, settled down at a farm on Cowley Beach Road, outside of Innisfail.

The couple grow sugar cane, exotic fruits and kaffir limes.

“Bruce built a house that was rated for the highest cyclone rating and he made it stronger again,” said Lawrie, whose property took a hit in the 2008 floods.

“All he lost was the guttering and power.

“He said the eye was slightly to the south of him. It blew all night, then it lulled, and then suddenly the wind came from the completely opposite direction.”

Innisfail Mango Tree Tourist Park owner Mike Schneider said the fury of Yasi was awesome.

“Sometimes you think the whole roof is going to take off,” he said.

“But we’re in a new building and it’s standing up pretty good.

“It’s the gusts of wind that make you say ‘wow, is this it or isn’t it?’.

“The building might shudder, or the roof might shake. It’s pretty unnerving.

“It’s just a roaring sound like I’ve never heard before.”

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