Queensland’s island resorts have
been evacuated and ports closed ahead of Cyclone Yasi, which threatens to
develop into one of the worst storms the state has seen.
Yasi will be a severe category
three or four cyclone when it crosses the coast on Thursday morning, likely
between Innisfail and Proserpine.
Premier Anna Bligh said authorities
were preparing for the cyclone to trigger a storm surge that could flood
low-lying areas between Innisfail and Mackay.
“In addition to a very
significant cyclone, possibly one of the largest we have ever seen in
Queensland, we expect to see this event become a significant rainfall event in
areas to the south and surrounding where it crosses the coast,” Ms Bligh
Falls of up to one metre could hit
areas that have already been flooded this month, and the government was working
on models to show what that would mean for central Queensland.
Ports from Cairns to Mackay have
Yasi was not expected to dissipate
quickly, or turn off the coast, Ms Bligh said.
“All of the modelling right
now says this is going to cross our coast … and it may well be one of the
largest and most significant cyclones that we’ve ever had to deal with,”
Yasi is likely to rival, and on
some measures, dwarf Cyclone Larry, which devastated parts of north Queensland.
If it hits as a category three,
wind gusts up to 200km/h can be expected, and 250km/h if it builds to a four,
as Cyclone Larry was when it devastated Innisfail and surrounding communities
in March 2006.
Bureau of Meteorology forecasters
said Yasi was a fairly fast moving system, meaning it was unlikely, on current
information, to stay in the same location and dump vast amounts of rain on an
already flood-devastated state.