IT WAS a day that will be remembered by Proserpine State School students forever - the day the Sheikh of Abu Dhabi flew into Proserpine to mark the start of construction of the town's cyclone shelter at their school.
It was a royal affair with three helicopters landing on the primary school oval to allow for His Highness Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, United Arab Emirates foreign affairs minister to see the site.
The shelter will be built at Proserpine State School as part of a $60m partnership with the Queensland State Government and the United Arab Emirates which will result in 10 shelters being built across the state.
Sheikh Abdullah had been holidaying in the Whitsundays this week and brought his entourage to meet with the deputy premier Andrew Fraser and member for Whitsunday Jan Jarratt to officially turn the sod.
The primary school students were elated by the visit and welcomed the ministers with a special speech by the school captains who detailed how they were personally affected by the weather extremes earlier this year.
The school choir played Abu Dhabi's national anthem.
Queensland reconstruction authority chair, major general RG Wilson also delivered a presentation to the Sheikh on last summer's weather activities.
Sheikh Abdullah said the partnership showed the strength of the relationship between the United Arab Emirates and the Queensland Government.
"I'm very delighted to be here for a very good reason," he said.
"It is true we come from very different societies, very different cultures and even very different languages…but a message from the UAE is: may peace be upon you all."
He said a number of people from the UAE frequently holidayed in Queensland, and the Whitsundays, and sympathised with the state when Cyclone Yasi hit.
The cyclone shelter will double as a facility for the school students to use and is expected to be completed within 12 months.
Mr Fraser said it was now up to the state government to get the shelters constructed as part of the combined government project.
"Responsibility now lies with the Queensland Government," he said.
"We hope this shelter never has to be used as a cyclone shelter but for everyday activities."
Mr Fraser said Proserpine had been chosen for construction in preference over Airlie Beach because it was further from the coast and more accessible.
"What we don't want is cyclone shelters that get cut off and are islands in their own rights," he said.
"Ultimately these are not evacuation centres."
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