Cyclone Yasi damage assessed by Australia
Police say 2 missing after storm

Thursday, February 3, 2011 9:26 AM ET CBC News

A policeman walks past the remains of a house that was destroyed by Cyclone Yasi in the northern Australian town of Tully on Thursday. (Tim Wimborne/Reuters) Hundreds of thousands of homes are still without power after Cyclone Yasi slammed parts of Australia's northeastern coast, battering several small coastal communities before weakening as it moved inland.

Residents and officials expressed relief that no one was reported killed by the powerful storm, which roared across northern Queensland with winds up to 280 km/h.

Tidal surges sent waves crashing ashore two blocks into seaside communities and several small towns directly under Yasi's path — including Mission Beach, Cardwell and Tully — were hit hard by the powerful storm.

Authorities are still trying to determine the extent of the damage but as many as 180,000 homes in northern Queensland were still without power Thursday, officials said.

"Hundreds of homes have been damaged, their roofs ripped off and some have been flattened all together," freelance reporter Roger Maynard told CBC News.

The strong winds and rain also devastated large tracts of banana and sugar cane crops.

Lisa Rawsley sat out the cyclone at her house in Mission Beach.

"We heard an almighty bang, an almighty crash. We didn't know whether it was our house, what it was or a big tree coming down," Rawsley said.

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said several thousand people would be temporarily homeless due to the powerful storm. The Australian Red Cross and local governments were working on registering people in need and finding places to house them, she said.

Maynard said the larger towns of Townsville and Cairns didn't see as much damage as the smaller communities.

"The wind wasn't quite so strong in Townsville and in Cairns," he said. "They weren't seriously affected in the major populated areas."

Officials said no major structural damage was done, though parts of Townsville were flooded.

Bligh said emergency workers surveying the damage would need several days to do a proper assessment.

"In Cardwell, for example, police have not been able to get in yet and it's far too early I think to even start talking about dodging bullets," the premier said.

Forecasters expect Yasi to be downgraded to a tropical low as it reaches the town of Mount Isa later Thursday, some 900 kilometres inland from where it first made landfall.

No deaths reported
Authorities said that so far, there have been no reported deaths, though Queensland police said at least two people were reported missing in the Innisfail area, south of Cairns.

Overturned caravans are scattered around a caravan park after Cyclone Yasi passed the northern Australian town of Tully on Thursday. (Tim Wimborne/Reuters) Deputy Police Commissioner Ian Stewart said one of the reports relates to a person who may have been on a boat, and he is still optimistic both men will be found alive.

"We are hampered in those investigations by the fact that we have many mobile phone towers which are actually damaged and not working at the moment," he said.

The storm damage was north of Australia's worst flooding in decades. It swamped an area in Queensland state the size of Germany and France combined, and killed 35 people during weeks of high water up until last month.

But the storm added to the state's woes, and was sure to add substantially to the estimated $5.6 billion in damage since late November.

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Sarah in Sydney sends this request... "Please pray for Mission Beach, Tully and Innes Fail; these towns were very badly damaged by cyclone Yassi as it crossed the Far North Queensland Coast last night. Thankfully, there has been no loss of life but damage to farming and industry has been extensive."


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