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 Cyclone Yasi: Queensland takes stock of damage

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PostSubject: Cyclone Yasi: Queensland takes stock of damage   Cyclone Yasi: Queensland takes stock of damage EmptyThu Feb 03, 2011 9:43 am

Cyclone Yasi: Queensland takes stock of damage Cyclone-Yasi-007
Cyclone Yasi: Queensland takes stock of damage

Cairns appears to have been spared worst of biggest cyclone in living memory, but it wreaks havoc elsewhere
High winds and rain push a swell onto a promenade in Cairns in the
aftermath of cyclone Yasi. Photograph: Paul Crock/AFP/Getty Images

A trail of destruction was emerging across the far north of Queensland
this morning after the biggest cyclone in living memory crossed the
coast at midnight local time.

Cyclone Yasi, a category 5 system, passed directly over Mission Beach, a
small coastal community of about 1,000, 90miles (160km) south of
Cairns.

There were no reports of deaths or serious injuries across the state.

Local resident Raymond Bosnich said many of the buildings in the town
had been affected. "I think every house has got some sort of damage," he
told Australian television. "Garages and garden sheds have been tossed
around. There's definitely damage on every property," he said. There was
also extensive damage to vegetation.

"Most of the trees in the area have been stripped. You'd think a fire had run through it," said Bosnich.

Local residents in Mission Beach reported a strange half-hour in the
calm eye of the storm, when they popped outside with torches, checked up
on neighbours and gazed at the momentarily clear sky.

"It's the strangest thing to go outside and see the stars and there is
no wind for half an hour," said Attie Willy of Coral Sea Kayaking, who
took shelter in a neighbour's house 150m from the beach to avoid the
worst of the storm surges.

Twenty miles south of Mission Beach, the small town of Tully was also
badly hit by the cyclone. A third of the houses in the town lost their
roofs, including part of the roof at the local hospital.

Anna Bligh, the Queensland premier, said emergency services in the area
were reporting that up to 90% of the buildings had been affected. The
main street was littered with corrugated iron from rooftops.

On Tuesday night there were about 60 terrified backpackers sheltering in
a pub in Tully as rainwater swept through the doors. Local councillor
Ross Sorbello ventured out of the car in which he was sheltering. "It is
just a scene of mass devastation," he said.

The full picture of the damage will take some time to emerge as power
and telecommunications have been cut to many areas and 175,000 homes
have no electricity.

Bligh said this morning the cyclone was still an "unfolding event".

"Many things are still unknown and many people are still in danger," she
said. "It is only just getting to daylight in some of these towns ...
so in some places we've got some early assessments of damage and some
places we're yet to get people into."

Despite the damage, cyclone Yasi, caused far less destruction than had
been expected, partly because it landed away from the major population
centres of Cairns and Townsville.

"It does seem Cairns has been spared the worst and that's a great
relief," Bligh told local television. "This has been, I think for many
people, a terrifying experience but this morning because so many of them
did take precautions, it seems that we certainly kept people safe in
those centres and I'm very pleased about that."

The storm has now been downgraded to a category 2 cyclone but is still considered to be dangerous.

"It's weakened quite rapidly after reaching land," said Tom Saunders of
the Weather Channel. "It will probably be downgraded again later today,'
he said.

The cyclone is heading inland towards the mining centre of Mount Isa,
where it is still expected to be a category 1 storm by 8pm local time.

Major flooding has been experienced in many centres around the north Queensland coast with 400mm of rain falling.

Thousands of the 400,000 people living in the path of the 300-mile wide
cyclone spent a sleepless night in hot and crowded emergency evacuation
centres set up in primary schools and shopping centres deemed strong
enough to withstand the cyclone and avoid storm surges up to eight
metres high.

At one centre in a Cairns school, which was temporarily home to 1,000
evacuees, a baby was delivered by British midwife Carol Weeks, believed
to be from Hemel Hempstead. Weeks and her husband, Andrew, were on
holiday in Cairns for their 25th wedding anniversary.

Cairns local councillor Linda Cooper who was in charge of the evacuation
centre, said she had asked for anyone with specialist skills to come
forward when they realised how pregnant the mother was. "It just so
happened that Carol was in the centre," said Cooper. "She not only
helped the pregnant lady but was also dealing with several elderly
people and others who had heat exhaustion."

The baby's mother, Akiko Pruss, went into labour at 2.45am local time.
She was taken to a small room that had been set aside for first aid in
the school's sports hall. Her German husband, Christian, and her mother,
who had flown from Japan, were with her.

Weeks delivered the baby with no facilities. The mother lay on a foam mattress in the windowless room, 12 feet square.

"We kept the generator going for the fan so at least she had that. We
also got her some wet towels to try to make her more comfortable, but
there were no medicines or drugs," said Cooper.

The baby was born at 6.09am, but no one knows how heavy she was. "We didn't have anything to weigh her with," said Cooper.

"The people in the centre were so excited to hear the news of the birth.
It certainly took their minds off what was going on outside," she said.

Two other babies were also born during the storm in the town of
Innisfail, which had taken the brunt of cyclone Larry five years ago.

The readiness of Australians for Yasi was in stark contrast to cyclone
Tracy, which struck Darwin on Christmas Day in 1974 and took many people
by surprise, killing 71 and destroying more than 70% of the city's
homes.

After plenty of warnings to leave vulnerable and low-lying homes,
evacuation centres became so full that people were turned away. While
extra flights were laid on out of Cairns, some residents claimed they
could not afford to leave the city because the cost of flights to
Brisbane soared to A$1,500 (£930) in the final hours before the airport
closed yesterday.

Although the night was long, dark and filled with anxiety, Australians
also greeted the threat of the cyclone with black humour and defiance:
on the plywood sealing up the front of the Hog's Breath Café in Cairns,
were sprayed the words: "Kiss my Yasi".

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