Cyclone Yasi to hit Queensland town

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

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

Cassowary Coast Mayor Bill Shannon said the category 5 cyclone would hit the town, which was virtually destroyed by Cyclone Larry in 2006, very hard, the Herald Sun reported.

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

Shannon said the town’s main evacuation centre still had electricity but large sections of the local region were without power.

He said there was no way of knowing the extent of damage caused by the storm until Thursday but said locals were prepared for widespread damage.

The damage is going to be extensive, he said.

People in the evacuation centre have been restricted to the first floor.

On Tuesday, suburbs and hospitals in Cairns city were being emptied in a mass flight from the “deadly” power of tropical cyclone.

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.

The cyclone is expected to hit the coast just south of Innisfail at midnight Queensland time.

The Bureau of Meteorology warning states that the cyclone has slowed down, and is now travelling at 25kmph. It is estimated to be 135 km east southeast of Cairns city and 90 km east of Innisfail.

“The very destructive core of Cyclone Yasi will cross the coast near Innisfail close to midnight, accompanied by a dangerous storm time south of the cyclone centre,” the Bureau of Meteorology states.

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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