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Cyclone Tracy: a day Australia will never forget

As this Christmas marks the 40th anniversary of Cyclone Tracy, we remember the day that devastated Darwin and the response that put the city on the road to recovery.

Monday December 22, 2014

Be prepared: 40 years on from Cyclone Tracy, the most important message remains the same

Early on Christmas morning 1974, devastating winds of 217km/h pummeled the city of Darwin, leaving 71 people dead, hundreds injured and flattening 70 per cent of the city's buildings.  

"It was an emergency of an unprecedented scale in Australia," says Paul Mitchell, Australian Red Cross Emergency Services Manager for the Northern Territory. "Red Cross volunteers and staff poured in from all over the country to help Darwin and worked with the community for months and years afterwards as people tried to deal with the aftermath and rebuild their lives. Recovery is a long, painful and difficult process."

In commemoration, Australian Red Cross recently launched the Forty years on: Unseen photos of Cyclone Tracy exhibition in Darwin, a collection of previously unseen photographs documenting the aftermath of the event.

But as we remember the past, it's important to look ahead and to make sure we're prepared for whatever emergencies we face in the future.

"Anniversaries like this can be difficult to deal with," says Paul. "As we stop and remember those who lost their lives and those who survived this tragic event, if there's some action we can take from that it's that we all need to be prepared. Disasters on the scale of Cyclone Tracy will always have the potential for grave destruction: they are unpredictable and indiscriminate. We can't change that, but we can all be prepared."

There are four simple steps everyone can take to greatly reduce the impact and stress of a disaster: be informed, make a plan, get an emergency kit and know your neighbours. These steps can significantly reduce the impact and stress of a disaster and its aftermath.  

Being prepared can make all the difference. Make sure you and your family are prepared for whatever the summer season may bring by visiting our emergency information pages.

You'll find free downloadable resources, including planning templates and activity sheets, to help you plan and prepare.