Australians voiced relief and surprise after one of the world’s most powerful cyclones spared the nation’s northeast coast from expected devastation on Thursday, with no reported deaths despite winds tearing off roofs and toppling trees.
Cyclone Yasi, roughly the size of Italy and packing winds of up to around 300 km per hour (186 miles per hour), threatened Australia with its second major natural disaster in as many months this week but ended up missing heavily populated areas.
Hours after Tropical Cyclone Yasi pummeled the picturesque coast, the view from the air revealed the breathtaking extent of the damage it left in its wake.
There was one image that vividly showed the wrath of the worst cyclone in Australia’s recorded history.
It was the picture of about 70 luxury yachts, motor cruisers and catamarans piled high like a child’s discarded Meccano set and thrown into waterfront living rooms that captures the disturbing scale of this event.
In a sweep by helicopter from Cairns to Ingham, at least 100 unsalvageable homes could be seen, homes blown apart by the epic storm that still batters north Queensland with lightning and torrential rain.
There were countless more damaged houses, ruined resorts, a trashed boat fleet, blown-away farms and washed away infrastructure in a total damage bill certain to run into the hundreds of millions of dollars.
Yasi, packing 290km/h winds, hit about midnight yesterday, stripping bare huge sections of rainforest, leaving them looking like dried corn stalks in a field.
Beachfront hamlets have been punished by a 7m tsunami-like storm surge that gutted homes, spewing furniture, cars and boats up to 300m away in places at Mission Beach, Hull Head, and Tully Heads.
This is ground zero.
Cardwell, too, found itself at the epicenter of the biggest storm in a century.
Yacht owner Steve Crothers had grimly forecast that Port Hinchinbrook marina in Cardwell would simply disintegrate under a 7m storm surge as he evacuated on Tuesday.
His motor sailer, Electra 2, is now but scrap metal, stacked among the junk of a multi-million-dollar fleet. From: heraldsun.com.au.
Once the playground of the well-heeled, but yesterday the marina of the upmarket Port Hinchinbrook looked like a nautical scrapyard after Cyclone Yasi reduced luxury yachts and cruisers to scrap.
Hardly any of the 70 craft that were moored in the marina escaped damage when the cyclonic winds roared through overnight, backed by a destructive oceanic storm surge.
The wall of water was estimated to be about 4m high, and followed about an hour after Cyclone Yasi had crossed the coast at nearby Mission Beach.
Fisherman Stephen Hughes, the owner of one of only four vessels which appear to have survived the storm surge in Port Hinchinbrook, described the scene as “catastrophic”.
“There’s got to be $20 million to $30m worth of ships wrecked here,” he said.
Touring the disaster zone late yesterday with federal Treasurer Wayne Swan, Premier Anna Bligh described the scene as devastating. From : The Australian.com.au.
Last night, 24 hours after it struck, the cyclone’s terror was not yet over.
Yasi was cutting a ferocious path through parts of western Queensland that have never experienced a cyclone. Mount Isa, 800km inland, was the final community in Yasi’s crosshairs.
Last night the dark fears held by authorities that Yasi’s deadly wind and huge ocean surges could cause widespread death had failed to materialise.