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Mother of all cyclones hits Australia

Last updated on: February 2, 2011 19:22 IST

Mother of all cyclones hits Australia

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Cyclone 'Yasi', termed to be the mother of all cyclones, made landfall between Innisfail and Cardwell in the northeastern Australian state of Queensland minutes ago.

Mass evacuations have been underway in anticipation of what forecasters expect will be the largest cyclone ever to hit the continent since 1918.

Tropical cyclone Yasi became much more powerful and was upgraded to a dangerous category five tropical cyclone on the Saffir Simpson scale on February 1, 2011. 

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Image: A satellite image obtained from the US Naval Research Laboratory
Photographs: US Naval Research Laboratory/Marine Meteorological Division/Handout/Reuters
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According to news.com.au, the storm is continental in size.

The main bloc of the cyclone is 500km wide, while its associated activity, stretches over 2000km.

Assuming that the storm was to hit India, it would have claimed millions of lives and caused destruction worth billions.


Image: A graphical interpretation of the scale of cyclone Yasi if it were to hit India

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Mother of all cyclones hits Australia

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Queensland premier Anna Bligh said, "This impact is likely to be more life threatening than any experienced during recent generations"

Yasi was seen by the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission satellite when it passed over on Febuary 1, 2011. TRMM precipitation data collected with that pass revealed that the intensifying Yasi had a small eye surrounded by powerful thunderstorms


Image: A sightseer walks along the waterfront in the northern Australian city of Cairns
Photographs: Tim Wimborne/Reuters
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Bligh urged inland residents in areas west of Cairns and Townsville to be prepared as Yasi moves into the interior of the state.

The Atherton Tablelands, Hinterlands and regions to the west are pointed out as the areas need to brace for cyclonic conditions.


Image: A hand painted board protects the front window of a cafe in the northern Australian city of Cairns
Photographs: Tim Wimborne/Reuters
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Bligh said 9,500 people were already in 20 evacuation centres, mostly in Cairns, Townsville and Innisfail. 

She said only those who would be inundated should move, and others should bunker down or stay with friends.


Image: A satellite image obtained from the US Naval Research Laboratory shows Cyclone Yasi
Photographs: US Naval Research Laboratory/Marine Meteorological Division/Handout/Reuters
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"You are safer in your own home and you will only take up space from people who cannot be in their own home or the home of a friend," she said.

She said large trees were already being brought down as the region started to see the effects of Yasi.


Image: Local resident Selwyn Hughes sits with his daughter Roseanne, 13, outside an emergency cyclone shelter after it was declared full and the gate locked in the city of Cairns
Photographs: Tim Wimborne/Reuters
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Dangerous swells would be experienced all the way down the coast to the Sunshine Coast.

Wind gusts at the core of the cyclone are already at 295km/h, Bligh said.


Image: A man wheels bedding into an emergency cyclone shelter at a shopping mall
Photographs: Tim Wimborne/Reuters
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Mother of all cyclones hits Australia

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State disaster management co-ordinator Ian Stewart said the storm surge at Cardwell was likely to be 6.5 to seven metres.

"That means a person who lives in that area who knows what...the highest tide level is, they can expect water above that, through the storm surge of up to 20 feet," he said.


Image: A local resident feeds his baby outside an emergency cyclone shelter after it was declared full and the gate locked
Photographs: Tim Wimborne/Reuters
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"People need to understand that their lives and property are in danger. They have a very small window of opportunity and should leave now," Stewart said.

He said water would build up over coming hours as the tide rises. In Townsville, the height is around the three metre mark, he said.


Image: A flight information screen shows all flights cancelled except one at the Cairns airport
Photographs: Tim Wimborne/Reuters
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Stewart said authorities were prepared as much as they could be.

The navy were prepared to bring their ships to the coast so that authorities could use them as bases if necessary, like during the tsunami response in Indonesia, he added.


Image: Shoppers queue to buy last minute supplies in a supermarket
Photographs: Tim Wimborne/Reuters
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Emergency services say they will not risk the lives of their personnel during the height of the cyclone.

They warn that people should now be bunkered down in homes or among the thousands who have moved into one of 20 evacuation centres across the region.

For more information on Cyclone Yasi, visit: Bureau of Meteorology, Government of Australia


Image: Local residents and tourists wait outside an emergency cyclone shelter after it was declared full
Photographs: Tim Wimborne/Reuters
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