Kiama tornado leaves family homeless

Darren Martin is without a house, a job, and a car, but his family is safe and well - all seven of them staying at his younger son's house after last weekend's tornadoes struck Kiama.

And though it is unlikely he'll ever go back to the place his family called home, Mr Martin wants to speak of positives - the generosity of the Kiama community and their offers of help and the selfless actions of the police officers who bundled the family out while their house was being destroyed.

Mr Martin's rented house was on Minnamurra Street, probably the worst-hit area as a "family" of four cyclones hit Kiama about 3am on Sunday.

His wife Sheree had heard the storm and got up to check on their children's windows, just as the tornado hit the roof and destroyed the upper storey of the house.

"She was standing near the stairwell - it tried to drag her up the stairwell," Mr Martin said.

"She had to grab hold of the bannister."

He said two police officers happened to be coming up their street at the time, and spotted the seriousness of the situation, dashing into the house to get the family out "in two minutes".

"They put their own lives at risk to save ours," he said.

"It was just instinct. They saw the top of the house come off, with their torchlight.

"They just jumped straight in."

Mr Martin, 47, an electrician who is between jobs, along with his wife and their children Glen, 26, Rebecca, 22, and Sarah, 20, are now staying at their son Ken's house in Kiama.

"We'll be right, we've just got to work through it."

Mr Martin said he had been "blown away" by offers of help, including dinner from Kiama's Hanoi on Manning restaurant, and vouchers from House 2 Home to help them replace some of what they have lost.

As Minnamurra Street reopened yesterday, Lake Illawarra police warned an asbestos risk may remain within some properties.

"To minimise the risk any asbestos material found on the properties has been treated with a pva water-based sealant as a stabilisation measure," a statement on the police Facebook page said.

"Air monitoring has been conducted 24 hours per day in eight locations. All results have reported no detectable asbestos, indicating a negligible risk to health.

"Uninsured property owners should contact council for further advice on removal of the material. Residents and other persons entering properties should wear a P2 dusk mask. Residents should seek independent advice in regard to work required to enable the safe re-occupation of their residence."

George Cronin, 58, is a semi-retired farmer who moved to Kiama from Temora, 230-kilometres west of Goulburn.

His house is just outside the asbestos exclusion zone, so he has been able to stay there during the clean-up, making him luckier than some neighbours.

He was in Victoria when the tornado hit, having been to the World Superbikes event at Philip Island. His neighbours spotted the damage to his house - caused by part of a roof flying into his deck - so they sealed up his windows to keep his house safe.

Mr Cronin said the fact the neighbours all knew each other meant they were ready to help.

"They did a good job," he said.

"They're all pretty positive. If anyone needs a hand, the rest of the neighbours are happy to help.

"It's a pretty good community here ... it's good to know people are looking out for you when you're not there."


Sheree Martin, Ken Martin, his partner Ally Reid, Sarah Martin and Darren Martin. Picture: GREG TOTMAN

Sheree Martin, Ken Martin, his partner Ally Reid, Sarah Martin and Darren Martin. Picture: GREG TOTMAN


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