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Australia clears up after ‘devastating’ twin cyclones


AUSTRALIA was clearing up Saturday after two severe cyclones left a trail of destruction, wrecking hundreds of homes and cutting electricity to tens of thousands, even as authorities warned of more flooding and gusty winds to come.

Tropical Cyclone Marcia barrelled through the northeastern state of Queensland Friday at the highest-rated category five, ripping apart houses, uprooting trees and bringing down power lines.

The severe system hit hours after category four Tropical Cyclone Lam slammed into the Northern Territory, causing extensive damage to remote Aboriginal communities near Elcho Island, some 500 kilometres (around 300 miles) east of the territory’s capital Darwin.

Both cyclones have since ceased, but the Bureau of Meteorology warned of further flooding, heavy rains, damaging winds and dangerous surf in southeast Queensland and northern New South Wales state.

“What we are seeing here is complete and utter devastation,” state Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said as she visited residents in the central Queensland coastal town of Yeppoon, about 670 kilometres north of the capital Brisbane.

“It has been absolutely horrific what these people have gone through.”

Despite the destruction, authorities have so far not received reports of serious injuries, missing people, or deaths.

“We are very happy to say still… that no person has been seriously injured and we certainly have no reports of anyone missing at this stage so we hope that that will continue,” state disaster coordinator Steve Gollschewski said.

Palaszczuk said Yeppoon and nearby Rockhampton were the worst hit, with the military called in to help with the clean-up.

“Yeppoon has suffered the brunt of the cyclone and it is going to take a lot longer for power to be restored,” she said, adding that some 60,000 people were without electricity. Water and sewage systems were also affected.

Power was slowly being returned in the towns but could take a few days to be fully restored, Palaszczuk added.

Queensland’s fire and emergency services said 200 homes in Yeppoon and 340 in Rockhampton were damaged or flooded. Gollschewski said so far 40 severely damaged structures had been found in the two towns.

Andrew Bennett described how his Yeppoon house was torn apart by the cyclone.

“It was incredible, it just exploded,” he told Brisbane’s Courier Mail as he described the “roaring” wind.

“The house seemed to pulsate and the wind blew out the window. Then the roof blew off. I couldn’t believe all the rain that was coming in.”

The clean-up process has started in Rockhampton, which Marcia passed directly over, as fallen trees and power lines were removed from roads.

There were long queues for fuel in the town of 80,000 residents, with people filling jerrycans for generators.

In the Northern Territory, a state of emergency has been declared for areas hardest hit by Lam.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott pledged federal disaster relief support for affected residents, adding that similar help was also extended to Queensland.

Northern Territory Chief Minister Adam Giles said teams were working with Aboriginal communities to restore power and water.

Parts of southeast Queensland, which has already been saturated by a separate weather system bringing hundreds of millimetres of rain to the region since Thursday, remain on flood watch with fears some rivers were set to overflow.

The deluge of rain in the region saw the cricket World Cup match between Australia and Bangladesh in Brisbane abandoned without a ball bowled.

Flood warnings have also been issued for northeast New South Wales state just below Queensland.

Queensland has been smashed by several major storms and cyclones over the past few years with Cyclone Oswald, also a category five, flooding parts of the state in 2013, racking up insurance claims of some Aus$977 million (US$765 million).


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