Life on the land in Australia


Yasi latest:

Cairns warned of direct hit

February 1, 2011 – 3:09PM
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Queensland prepares for severe cyclone

Evacuations set to begin in Queensland with a severe cyclone expected to strike the flood-ravaged state on Wednesday evening.

Authorities doorknocking homes in north Queensland are now ordering people to leave their properties, amid fears severe Tropical Cyclone Yasi will cause a two-metre storm surge.

Latest Bureau of Meteorology modelling shows a direct hit on Cairns early on Thursday morning is one of the more likely scenarios.

The cyclone is expected to be packing 250kmh winds by the time it strikes land, making it more powerful than Cyclone Larry, which devastated the north Queensland town of Innisfail in 2006.

The huge cyclone approaches the Australian coast from the Coral Sea.
The huge cyclone approaches the Australian coast from the Coral Sea. Photo: Reuters/Japan Meteorological Agency

The latest tracking map, issued at 2pm local time, marks out the range of possible landfall sites, from as far north as Cooktown to as far south as Townsville.

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said this afternoon councils from Cook to Hinchinbrook had given the go-ahead for forced evacuations to be carried out, as the category-three cyclone approaches the Queensland coast.

It is expected to intensify to a severe category-four system and cause significant damage.

Tropical Cyclone Yasi moves towards the northern Queensland coast.
Tropical Cyclone Yasi moves towards the northern Queensland coast. Photo: Japanese Meteorological Agency/Bureau of Meteorology

By comparison Larry, which caused $1.5 billion worth of damage to Innisfail and surrounds, was a mid-level category four system.

“This of course is not only a system now tracking as more intense than Cyclone Larry, it is significantly larger than Cyclone Larry,” Ms Bligh told reporters today.

The Premier said officials who were door-knocking homes in high-risk areas now had the power to issue directives for people to leave.

Cyclone Yasi, as seen from space.Cyclone Yasi, as seen from space. Photo: NASA Goddard/MODIS Rapid Respons

She said those people should seek accommodation with family and friends but she understood there were some, like tourists, who would have nowhere to go.

Those people should register with authorities by phoning 1300 993 191.

‘‘Arrangements are being put in place to provide emergency accommodation for those people who are unable to access friends and family to relocate with,’’ she told reporters.

A resident stands on the roof of his destroyed property in Innisfail after Cyclone Larry struck in March 2006.

Cyclone Larry destruction

A resident stands on the roof of his destroyed property in Innisfail after Cyclone Larry struck in March 2006. Photo: Mark Baker/AP

Preparing for the worst

Those who have decided to ride out the storm spent the day sandbagging properties, taping windows and stocking up on supplies at supermarkets.

State disaster co-ordinator Ian Stewart said he hoped residents in the high-risk storm tide areas would now see the danger they were in and be prepared to leave.

Flood map
Image courtesy of US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

He said while the storm surge threat posed by the cyclone had been revised down by the Bureau of Meteorology, it could still cause levels to rise by two metres.

Metropolitan Cairns would see significant inundation, with about 9000 people in the area expected to be evacuated, he said.

‘‘All of that CBD, behind the CBD and south … to the inlet will be inundated at that level,’’ he said.

‘‘But I need to stress, we need to wait for the new analysis from BoM to come through, we’ve had verbal advice … in relation to their revised figures.

‘‘It (will) be less than what we had originally been told a day ago because of the changing circumstances.’’

Hospitals evacuated

More than 250 patients will be flown from Cairns to Brisbane tonight as authorities evacuate two hospitals ahead of the arrival of Yasi.

Ms Bligh said 11 aircraft from the Australian Defence Force, Royal Flying Doctor Service and the government air wing would be used to carry patients who had been at the waterfront Cairns Base and Cairns Private hospitals.

The planes will ferry patients from tonight into the early hours of tomorrow morning.

‘‘Of course we understand that not only will patients be anxious about this, but for friends and family and loved ones, this will be quite a nervous time,’’ Ms Bligh said.

She said those undertaking the operation were trained in this time of medical evacuation and the patients were taken to major and fully-equipped Brisbane hospitals.

‘‘We understand that this will cause some anxiety,’’ she said.

‘‘It is only being done to make sure that very ill and very vulnerable patients are in the safest place possible.’’

Queensland Health chief health officer Jeannette Young said intensive care unit patients, dialysis patients, women expecting to give birth, neonatal patients and premature babies were among those to be transported.

She said she was confident it could be done safely.

Patients will be transferred to Brisbane hospitals, which have been placed on a ‘‘code brown’’ alert, meaning some elective surgery would be cancelled to make room.

“We will set up an alternative emergency department elsewhere [in Cairns] where we know it won’t flood,” Dr Young said.

About 216 people had been evacuated from nursing homes in the region, Ms Bligh said.

Further evacuations

Six evacuation centres have been set up in Cairns for residents with nowhere else to go.

Mr Stewart said a large number of people were self-evacuating.

‘‘A large number of people are determined to self-evacuate out of the danger areas by driving out,’’ Mr Stewart told reporters.

‘‘We ask people don’t panic buy in terms of petrol.

‘‘Those people [who are driving out of the area] … we would like you to be very patient and very careful.’’

Mr Stewart encouraged people to get as far south as Mackay if they could, with that city expected to experience conditions like a category one storm.

‘‘In reality, we would like people to get as far south as possible, as quickly as possible, without of course breaking the rules,’’ he told reporters.

‘‘Mackay is probably a target area for … complete safety.’’

Extra flights

Ms Bligh said tourists and residents wanting to leave the region by air only have today to do so.

“I know people are getting advice that airlines are full but major airlines will be putting on extra flights into the region today,” she said.

“So if you are wanting to leave the region by air today is the last day to do that most likely.”

Jetstar has said it is putting on extra flights to get travellers off Whitsunday resort islands.

All schools in far north Queensland will be closed on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

Communities prepare

Senior forecaster Gordon Banks says Yasi has the capacity to affect a large swathe of the state as it heads inland affecting places like Richmond, Hughenden, Cloncurry and eventually Mt Isa.

Hinchinbrook Shire Mayor Pino Giandomenico said the council had urged more than 2000 residents in low-lying coastal areas in Ingham and Lucinda to move to higher ground.

“We have asked all our beach communities to evacuate, because there is the threat of a storm surge,C he said.

Thousands of people in Townsville have been urged to leave their homes at risk of flooding from the expected storm surge.

Cairns mayor Val Schier emerged from the meeting with Emergency Management Queensland “quite worried”.

“It’s certainly alarming and very sobering,” she told ABC Radio.

Affected residents can register with authorities and concerned friends or relatives can make enquiries on 1300 993 191; international callers phone +61 7 3055 6220.

AAP, Daniel Hurst and Marissa Calligeros

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

February 1st, 2011

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