Australians Told To FLEE As ‘Catastrophic’ Cyclone Yasi Approaches

Cyclone Yasi – Australia’s Biggest Cyclone in Living Memory

Cyclone Yasi approaches Queensland

Update: – Australia’s Cyclone Yasi may destroy even ‘cyclone proof’ homes (Reuters)

Thousands of residents in Queensland have been warned to ‘just grab each other’ with the category five storm due to hit in the coming hours

(My apology for the bad audio quality. Use the Link to this video
) Thousands of residents in Queensland have been warned to ‘just grab each other’ and get to safety with the category-five Cyclone Yasi due to hit the coast in the coming hours

Thousands of Australians have left their homes for evacuation centres, as cyclone Yasi – predicted to be the worst in the country’s history, nears the Queensland coast. Many residents have stocked up on food and bedded down in shelters to protect themselves from the prospect of furious winds, rains and surging seas on a scale unseen there in generations.

Cyclone Yasi was upgraded overnight to a category five storm – the highest – and is due to hit the coast near Cairns at about midnight local time.

Queensland premier Anna Bligh said the last cyclone of such strength to cross Queensland was in 1918 and advised residents to “just grab each other” and find safety.

“It’s such a big storm, it’s a monster, killer storm,” she said. “This impact is likely to be more life-threatening than any experienced during recent generations.”

Bligh warned that the next 24 hours will see extremely dangerous conditions.

“We are facing a storm of catastrophic proportions in a highly populated area,” she said. “All aspects of this cyclone are going to be terrifying and potentially very, very damaging.

“Do not bother to pack bags. Just grab each other and get to a place of safety. Remember that people are irreplaceable,” she said.

Bligh added that the greatest threat to life could come from tidal surges up to seven metres above normal high tide levels. The storm is due to hit at high tide.

The Bureau of Meteorology said the impact of cyclone Yasi is likely to be “more life-threatening than any experienced during recent generations”.

Winds of up to 295kph are expected to bring widespread flooding with up to 400mm of rain predicted. Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans in 2005, packed winds of 340kph before it hit the coast.

The storm front is predicted to be 500km wide – about the distance from London to Edinburgh, when it hits the coast. More than 400,000 people live in the cyclone’s path, including the cities of Cairns, Townsville and Mackay.

Cairns, the centre of Australia’s Barrier Reef tourism industry, is deserted. Residents have sandbagged homes, taped windows and barricaded shops and businesses. Evacuation centres in the city are overflowing. The two major hospitals in the city have also been evacuated, the airport has been closed and power and telecommunications are expected to go down within hours.

The military helped evacuate nearly 40,000 people from low-lying coastal areas in Yasi’s path. Those who have not fled their homes have been advised to shelter in the smallest rooms in their houses to wait out the storm.

Queenland is often hit by cyclones during the summer months. Five years ago, cyclone Larry, a category four storm, virtually wiped the town of Innisfail, 80km south of Cairns, off the map, causing widespread damage including to the region’s banana growing industry.

This time, Innisfail is again right in the path of this cyclone.

“I’m absolutely terrified. I’ve got a really bad feeling about this one,” said resident Gina Nugent.

“It just gives you goose bumps on the back of your neck and brings back all those memories knowing that this is bigger,” she said.

Queensland had barely begun the clean-up after the devasating floods in December and January that killed dozens of people. The last category five cyclone to hit the state was in 1918. In 1974, cyclone Tracy, a category four storm, hit Darwin in Australia’s Northern Territory, killing 71 people.

Alison Rourke in Sydney
Wednesday 2 February 2011 04.39 GMT

Source: The Guardian

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