Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Yasi hits Australian Coast

Cyclone Yasi, Winds Stronger Than Katrina, Hits Australia Coast

Cyclone Yasi, Winds Stronger Than Katrina, Hits Australia
Hundreds of frightened residents flood into the evacuation centre in the old Town Hall as cyclone Yasi approaches Innisfail. Photographer: Torsten Blackwood/AFP/Getty Images
Cyclone Yasi Hits Australia Coast
The core of Yasi, a “catastrophic” category 5 storm, began crossing Queensland state’s northeast coast with wind gusts of as much as 290 kilometers (180 miles) per hour, the Bureau of Meteorology said. Source: NOAA/Getty Images
Tropical Cyclone Yasi, packing winds stronger than those fromHurricane Katrina that devastated New Orleans, reachedAustralia’s coastline as residents in the northeastern cities of Cairns and Townsville filled evacuation shelters seeking refuge.
The core of Yasi, a “catastrophic” category 5 storm, began crossing Queensland state’s northeast coast with wind gusts of as much as 290 kilometers (180 miles) per hour, the Bureau of Meteorology said. More than 89,000 homes have lost power, schools and airports are closed and military forces were used to airlift 200 hospital patients to the state capital of Brisbane about 1,500 kilometers to the south.
“I can’t sugarcoat this for people, it’s going to be a very tough 24 hours,” Queensland Premier Anna Bligh told reporters inBrisbane yesterday. “Without doubt we are set to confront scenes of devastation and heartbreak.”
The cyclone, coming just weeks after Brisbane was hit by the worst flooding since 1974, is “likely to be more life threatening than any experienced during recent generations,” according to the Bureau of Meteorology. The core will take four hours to pass, it said.
The cyclone will last as long as three days and may still be a category 1 storm, defined by winds of up to 125 kilometers an hour, by Friday, when it could reach Mt. Isa about 900 kilometers inland, Bligh said.
Yasi is more severe than Category 4 Cyclone Larry, which wiped out most of Australia’s banana crop and devastated sugar cane fields almost five years ago. Hurricane Katrina, which hit New Orleans in Aug. 2005, had winds of as much as 280 kilometers per hour.
‘Frightening Hours Ahead’
Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who has provided help to Queensland from the nation’s military, said Yasi is the worst cyclone Australia has seen and that locals face “many dreadful, frightening hours ahead.”
“The people of Australia will be there to help the people of far North Queensland through,” Gillard told reporters in Canberra yesterday. “As the cyclone passes through and the hours that follow afterwards, arrangements are already being made to make available assets from our Australian Defence Force.”
Some 10,680 people are being sheltered in more than 20 evacuation centers along the coast to avoid a storm surge that is forecast to trigger flooding, Bligh said.
All but one of the designated evacuation centers in Cairns are now full and turning away late arrivals, the municipal government reported on its website. The city of more than 120,000 people, about 1,700 kilometers north of Brisbane, is a tourist destination and gateway to the Great Barrier Reef.
Coastline Hit
Yasi was crossing between the towns of Innisfail and Cardwell as of midnight local time, moving west south-westerly, the weather bureau said. The storm may affect more than 900 kilometers of coastline between Cape Flattery and Sarina with the core taking as long as four hours to pass as is moves across inland.
The last category five cyclone to strike the Queensland coast was in 1918, Bligh said. Cyclone Larry crossed near Innisfail in 2006, causing an estimated A$500 million ($504 million) of damage to infrastructure and crops, damaging about 10,000 homes and disrupting road and rail access for several days, the weather bureau said on its website.
More than 89,000 people in north Queensland have lost power, including all of Townsville’s central business district and some evacuation centers, Bligh said, with the storm threatening to knock out transmission towers.
Power Threats
“They have never been tested at this level before,” she said. “If the transmission lines on the inland side are disrupted or bought down by this event, it would mean a catastrophic failure of the electricity supply system to the entire north and far north of our state.”
A group of six elderly people who called seeking an evacuation from the town of Hinchinbrook can’t be helped because conditions prevent any rescue efforts, state disaster coordinator Ian Stewart told reporters.
Coastal residents were warned of a storm tide as the cyclone approaches, with the tide in Townsville reaching the three meter mark and possible surges of as much as 7 meters, according to Stewart.
Flood Recovery
Queensland is beginning a recovery effort estimated to cost at least A$5 billion as its economy prepares for slower growth because of flooding since November, Bligh said Jan. 28. The state contributes about 19 percent of Australia’s economic output, producing 80 percent of the country’s coking coal, Treasurer Wayne Swan said last month.
Tourists in Cairns, the Whitsundays and Townsville, popular centers for cruises to the Great Barrier Reef, rushed to board flights late yesterday before airports closed.
Losses to the sugar cane industry in the region, which accounts for about a third of Australian production, may be A$500 million, Steve Greenwood, chief executive officer of industry group Canegrowers, said in an e-mail.
Banana plantations in the region, which account for 85 percent of national production, face “catastrophic” losses while a fifth of the state’s A$3.3 billion cattle herd may be wiped out, theNational Farmers’ Federation said in an e-mailed statement yesterday.
Century, the world’s second-largest zinc mine, is slowing operations because of the category five cyclone, Bruce Loveday, a spokesman for Minmetal Resources Ltd.’s MMG unit, said yesterday by phone. Kagara Ltd. shut its Mt. Garnet zinc mine and treatment plant, Chairman Kim Robinson said by phone.
Rio Tinto Group and Xstrata Plc shut coal mines, while ports and rail lines are closed. At least 32 coal ships have headed out to sea after Hay Point harbor and the Abbot Point export terminal were shut, according to North Queensland Bulks Ports Corp. and Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal Pty.
To contact the reporter on this story: Robert Fenner in Melbourne at
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Dave McCombs at

1 comment:

HyunChard said...

I'll just pray that Cyclones won't hit near the property sunshine coast.