“ Out of our control ”: Living through Cyclone Yasi Academic Article uri icon


  • The aim of this study was to explore the experiences of people who lived through Cyclone Yasi on 3 February 2011. Data from two open-ended questions (Q1: n=344; and Q2: n=339) within a survey completed by 433 residents of cyclone-affected areas between Cairns and Townsville, Australia, were analysed using a qualitative, thematic approach. Experiences were portrayed in three main themes: (1) living in the mode of existential threat describes survivors' sense of panic and feeling at the mercy of nature as they feared for their life; (2) unforgettable memories describe feelings of emotional helplessness and the unimaginable chaos that the cyclone wrought; and (3) centrality of others shows how community support and closeness helped alleviate losses and uncertainty. A critical finding from this study was the negative role of the media in escalating fears for life prior to and during the cyclone, highlighting the need for government, community leaders, and health professionals to have a media plan in place to ensure that disaster warnings are taken seriously without inciting unnecessary panic. Although survivors experienced extreme vulnerability and a threat to life, the disaster also brought communities closer together and connected family, friends, and neighbours through the caring, support, and help they offered each other. This highlights the central role of others during the recovery process and underlines the importance of promoting and facilitating social support to aid recovery post disaster.

publication date

  • 2014