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Cyclone Yasi devastation begins to emerge

on 11/01/2019

Cardwell looks like it has been hit by a tsunami, with the marina destroyed and power lines down everywhere, while Tully has been reduced to a disaster zone, with hundreds of homes and businesses damaged.

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The category five cyclone ripped through the towns last night, lashing them with winds of up to 290km/h close to the eye of the storm.

Cardwell epicentre of cyclone

A church in Cardwell, denomination unknown, lacks walls and a roof. Its pews lie on the floor and a hymn book sits open at a page with the words: “We all thank our God with hearts and voices Who wondrous things hath done.”

Ironic words in a town smashed by Cyclone Yasi and its storm surge.

The pretty coastal town is absolutely decimated.

Emergency crews are moving from house to house, marking them as habitable and inhabitable.

For some dwellings, you don’t need a painted mark to deem them unliveable – they’re absolutely wrecked.

The town is covered in mud from the storm surge, huge trees lie across the Bruce Highway, which passes along the thin strip of land between ocean and rainforest-covered mountains.

With damage reports continuing to come in, it appears that Cardwell is the epicentre of the damage caused by Cyclone Yasi when, as a Category 5 system, it slammed into the coast about midnight on Wednesday.

Nearby, the upmarket tourist haven of Port Hinchinbrook is a wreck.

Dozens of luxury yachts, some 20 metres long, lie smashed against each other or the shoreline.

Some have been flung into the streets themselves. Floating walkways lie twisted among the other wreckage. There is also extensive damage to dwellings.

Fisherman Stephen Hughes is the owner of one of only four vessels that appear to have survived the storm surge in Port Hinchinbrook. Mr Hughes described the scene as “catastrophic”.

“There’s got to be $20 million to $30 million worth of ships wrecked here,” he said.

Residents get a grasp on ruined Tully

Hundreds of homes and businesses in Tully were torn apart, forcing locals to seek refuge with neighbours.

By midday today, they were putting on a calm exterior despite the horrific ordeal they had lived through. Tully resident Josh Collins and girlfriend Melissa Minucci spent a terrifying night sheltering in the local backpackers’ hostel, which lost its roof in the storm.

“It was scary, the roof was torn off and the furniture was smashing about upstairs,” Ms Minucci told AAP.

“The sound was awful, we couldn’t hear a thing.”

Mr Collins said the damage to the nearby banana plantations would leave many in the community without an income.

“Everyone’s in bananas here,” he said. “So we’re pretty much stuffed now.” Another resident, Kendrich Jones, sheltered in a 4WD under his house as the cyclone tore the balcony and guttering from the building.

“It was pretty bad but at least we kept the roof on unlike so many others,” he said.

“The whole town looks like a disaster zone so we’re pretty lucky I guess.”

Butler Street, Tully’s main street, is littered with debris, roofing iron, glass, wood and other building material.

Roofs, torn off several business, have either landed in the street or been wrapped around poles across the road.

Traffic lights have been bent in half, but the iconic Golden Gumboot, a symbol of Tully’s claim to fame as one of the wettest places in Australia, is still intact.

Seven people have been evacuated from Tully Hospital because of a lack of power in the town. Cassowary Coast Regional Council mayor Bill Shannon said he wasn’t aware of the patients’ condition.

The highway in Tully was re-opened around midday (AEST) and the patients were evacuated by road. Mr Shannon said about a third of the homes in Tully had been damaged.

“One roof in three is off in some parts of town,” Mr Shannon told reporters on Thursday.

Cyclonic winds were so strong that even a billiard table reportedly was blown across the road in Tully Heads, Mr Shannon said.

Locals have begun the clean-up process, but they have a long way to go.

Yasi downgraded to category one

Damaging winds and possible flash flooding are expected in and around Mt Isa despite Cyclone Yasi being downgraded to a category one by the Bureau of Meteorology.

The bureau says Yasi is moving west southwest at 40km/h, and has put residents near the Northern Territory border and at Mt Isa on notice for damaging wind gusts and heavy rain.

Emergency Services Minister Neil Roberts said flash flooding was still a concern in certain areas as the cyclone powered on, although he said Yasi was weakening.

“But it’ll still be quite a significant storm in Mt Isa later tonight,” he told Sky News.

The bureau’s 2.14pm (AEST) bulletin cancelled an earlier cyclone warning from Cardwell to Ayr and inland to Charters Towers.

At 1pm (AEST), the bureau said Yasi was about 150km northwest of Richmond and 295km east northeast of Mt Isa.

Damaging winds of above 90km/h were continuing through the tropical interior, while flash flooding and dangerous surf conditions will abate along the east coast between Cairns and Proserpine.

Tide levels were falling and were not expected to pose any further threat to coastal areas between Port Douglas and Ayr, the bureau said.


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