Queensland survives Cyclone Yasi with no known deaths

Cyclone Yasi has battered the state of Queensland in north-eastern Australia, leaving a trail of destruction.Worst hit were the coastal towns of Tully, Mission Beach and Cardwell, with hundreds of houses destroyed.The cities of Cairns and Townsville were relatively unscathed but are being lashed by heavy rains; warnings of further storm surges have been issued.Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said there had been no reports of deaths or serious injuries so far.”I’m very relieved this morning, but I do stress these are very early reports,” she said. “It’s a long way to go before I say we’ve dodged any bullets.”The full scale of damage caused by the estimated 300km/h (190mph) winds is not yet known as power and phone lines are cut in some areas.At least 180,000 homes are without electricity; relief workers are using heavy equipment to cut through fallen trees and debris.Prime Minister Julia Gillard said Queensland had been braced for the cyclone.”Even as we worried about fellow Australians facing danger and very, very frightening hours I think at the same time we knew that they were facing that danger with courage, and that they were well prepared,” she said.In Cairns, residents have been told they can return home; Cairns Base Hospital has reopened more than 24 hours after evacuating all its patients to Brisbane.Powerful winds in the city have twisted traffic lights, blown out glass and destroyed trees.Authorities there said a secondary storm surge was pounding the Cairns waterfront on top of a 3m high tide, renewing flooding fears.Metres-high tides were also threatening Townsville, sparking new warnings of flooding in low-lying areas.But it was the smaller communities south of Cairns that were hardest hit by the storm.Coastal homes have been destroyed, their roofs ripped off, and residents have reported the destruction of banana and other fruit crops.In Cardwell, boats were piled on top of each other in the Port Hinchinbrook Marina.Emergency services in Tully said that up to 90% of buildings there had been extensively damaged. “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, in the direct path of the cyclone.

“It was really terrifying, but we were safe,” said Barbara Kendall, a coastal resident reported as having spent the night in her car with her husband and cats.”It’s a terrifying sound. It’s really hard to describe. All I could hear was the screeching of the wind.”Internet chat boards are crammed with people trying to track down their relatives, although lack of contact is mostly being blamed on the destruction of infrastructure, not lives.Residents across the affected area are still being told to exercise a great deal of caution and evacuation centres remain open.”The last thing we want is some sort of casualty when people might think we have the all clear,” Cairns Mayor Val Schier said.Ms Bligh said there was still “a very dangerous situation in Cairns and Townsville around those storm surge areas”.Cyclone Yasi has now been downgraded to a category two storm as it continues to cross north-eastern Australia – BBC