North-eastern Australia had a
miraculous escape on Thursday when the worst cyclone to hit the state of
Queensland in a century missed two major cities, sparing thousands of people
from its full force.
The monster storm had been
predicted to hit the Australian
city of Cairns, which is home to 160,000 people.
Authorities had warned that the “life
threatening” weather system – the same size as Hurricane Katrina – could
also cause severe damage to Townsville, the unofficial capital of tropical
north Queensland which lies 170 miles to the south.
Instead, Cyclone Yasi, carrying
winds of up to 180mph, slammed into the coast halfway between the major tourist
The cyclone knocked out power to
180,000 people and destroyed hundreds of homes, but by late afternoon police
had no reports of any deaths or serious injuries, although two men were listed
The images from the tiny coastal
community of Cardwell, which is home to just 1,250 people but bore the brunt of
the cyclone, suggest that had it struck either city, the damage, and the death
toll, would have been much worse.
Footage from Yasi’s “ground
zero” showed large yachts tossed out of the sea and dumped into fields.
Trees in the region’s lush rainforest were stripped of their leaves, snapped in
half or uprooted. Scores of houses were reduced to jagged piles of wood.
Authorities attributed the fact
that no one died in the onslaught to a combination of good preparation and
Neil Roberts, the state’s emergency
services minister, said it was an “amazing outcome”.
“People have listened to the
advice and taken the appropriate actions to relocate.” he said.
“The potential was there [for
significant loss of life], but due to good planning and a good response by
disaster management groups and locals councils we have been able to keep