a camera and an open canvas (subsequent) wrote in ontd_political,
a camera and an open canvas

Cyclone Yasi: preparation saved thousands of lives.

A combination of luck and good planning has been credited with saving the lives of thousands of people in the path of Tropical Cyclone Yasi, which slammed into the Queensland coast early on Thursday morning whipping up winds of 180mph and waves of up to 30ft.

An estimated 400,000 people live in the region hit by the category five "monster" cyclone, but as day broke over a wet and battered 190-mile stretch of north Queensland, police said there had been no reports of deaths or serious injuries during the "terrifying" night.

The massive cyclone, which hit at midnight (2am GMT), missed major population centres of Cairns and Townsville, making landfall at the smaller coastal communities of Mission Beach, Cardwell and Tully.

Authorities said that the damage at the cyclone's "ground zero" was extensive, with hundreds of properties destroyed and hundreds more uninhabitable. The area was also under threat from inundation from large storm surges in the wake of the cyclone. But Neil Roberts, the Queensland emergency services minister, acknowledged that the outcome could have been much worse.

"People have listened to the advice and taken the appropriate actions to relocate." he said.

"The potential was there [for significant loss of life], this was the worst cyclone this country has experienced for 100 years .

However, Mr Roberts cautioned that police and emergency services were still searching the worst hit areas and could not rule out the possibility of finding casualties.

Anna Bligh, the state' premier, said she was surprised and deeply relieved that he storm had not caused "catastrophic" damage, but said it was too soon to declare that the region had "dodged a bullet" because conditions were still dangerous.

She said that in some places 90 per cent of homes had suffered serious structural damage and he region faced a long and arduous recovery.

"Some people will be going back into their communities... and facing scenes of considerable devastation," she said.

"There are people now that have lost their homes, they lost their farms, they have lost their crops and they have lost their livelihoods and I have no doubt that many of them will experience a great sense of despair."

As the day progressed and winds died down evacuation centres along the coast started closing their doors and sending people home. Because of the widespread damage, some were expected to have no homes to go to, and temporary shelters for those made homeless by the cyclone were being set up.

The destruction wrought by Yasi is likely to make life in north Queensland very difficult in the coming days and weeks. Flooding resulting from heavy rain and fallen trees had cut major roads and rail lines and power was down to 180,000 buildings. Due to damage to infrastructure, residents of Townsville, which is home to 180,000 people, were asked to ration water use.

"Nothing's been spared. The devastation is phenomenal, like nothing I've ever experienced," said David Brook, the manager of a resort at Mission Beach, where the core of the storm hit.

Ron Darlington, resident of Tully, where 90 per cent of buildings were damaged, said the scenes at dawn were "unbelievable".

"We lived through Larry we thought that was pretty bad, but that was just a storm," he told ABC radio.

"There is not a blade of grass, there is not a leaf on a tree, the power lines are down, most of the roads are blocked, every single house has been damaged."

Noelene Byrne, also in Tully, said it looked like "bombs have come through and destroyed everything".

Amid the chaos there was some happy news: a baby girl was born at a Cairns evacuation centre just before dawn with the help of a British midwife who was in the area on holiday.

Australia's tropical north is in the middle of its annual cyclone season. Yasi comes just weeks after two-thirds of the state was hit by major flooding, which killed at least 35 people.



Death toll: 0, Birth count: 3. Heck yeah. Still, the clean-up for this is going to be monumental.
Tags: australia, natural disaster

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