Cyclone Yasi hits Queensland

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

MELBOURNE - Cyclone Yasi hit Australia’s north Queensland town of Tully just before Wednesday midnight and the damage caused by the storm is expected to be widespread, a media report said.

Tully, Innisfail, Mission Beach and Dunk Island have been the hardest hit communities so far as category 5 cyclone slammed into the north Queensland coast, the Herald Sun reported.

The cyclone was downgraded to category 4, but still remains a dangerous cyclone, the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) said.

Cassowary Coast Mayor Ross Sorbello said the roof had been torn from his mother’s house in Tully and local properties had suffered similar damage.

“We are talking about a pretty strong brick house that was built in the 70s, so god help us in the morning when we look at some of the older places,” he said.

Sorbello said the streets were strewn with debris while power poles had been knocked over.

“It is just a scene of mass devastation,” he said.

Cyclone Yasi crossed the coast at Mission Beach, to the east of Tully at 1 a.m. Forecasters said its winds will gust to 290km/h near the eye of the storm.

“Tropical Cyclone Yasi will continue to weaken as it continues to move in a west-southwesterly direction towards the Georgetown area during the morning,” the BoM said.

BoM spokesman Rob Morton said the eye of the cyclone would take about an hour over to pass over Mission Beach.

Earlier, Shannon said the cyclone was hitting Innisfail, which was virtually destroyed by Cyclone Larry in 2006, very hard.

“The cyclone is very much upon us, the wind is getting pretty fast and the rain is getting heavier by the minute,” he said.

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said the “destructive core” of the cyclone was now approaching, with wind gusts of up to 290 kmph. The cyclone is 150 km wide, five times the size of Cyclone Larry.

Cairns Mayor Val Schier said power was out across large parts of the city, which was already being hit by strong winds.

“The winds are definitely getting stronger and it’s only now that the destructive core of the cyclone is starting to hit,” she said.

Bligh said there had been a low number of calls received by emergency services, but she expected that to start increasing in the next few hours.

She said people caught up in the disaster were on their own, and that was a very distressing reality.

“These are not conditions where you can put up a helicopter to do a winch rescue. All of that is now beyond the realm of possibility.”

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has told the people of far north Queensland that the entire nation is behind them.

“In the hours of destruction that are coming to them, all of Australia is going to be thinking of them. Our thoughts are with you,” she said.

Gillard said Yasi was probably going to be the worst cyclone ever to hit Australia.

Filed under: Accidents and Disasters

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