2 Feb 2011

New Zealanders taking shelter as cyclone nears

10:34 pm on 2 February 2011

New Zealanders living in north Queensland are taking shelter as a cyclone is set to hit.

Officials are warning that Yasi, a maximum-strength Category 5 system, is likely to be a catastrophic and deadly storm.

The cyclone is due to cross the coast between Cairns and Innisfail, about midnight local time on Wednesday, Australia's Bureau of Meteorology says.

The cities of Cairns and Townsville are preparing for the severe storm and major flooding.

New Zealander Anna Giles lives in Cairns with her husband and three young children and says they will be sheltering in the hallway of their brick home.

Susan Deliefde, a caregiver from Wellington, says she will remain in the city where she is looking after a physically disabled man who is also from New Zealand.

Ms Deliefde says the roads out of the city have been jammed, supermarkets have been stripped of canned goods and the city had sold out of radios by 11am on Tuesday.

Damian O'Donohue, who lives in Townsville, says he is also preparing to barricade himself in his apartment and shelter in the smallest room.

Heed advice, MFAT warns

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) is advising all New Zealanders living in the state to follow any advice issued by authorities.

MFAT says New Zealanders in areas affected by the cyclone should keep their families informed of their safety and well-being and register their details with the ministry.

New Zealanders intending to travel to Queensland should check their flight status with their airline or travel agent directly, it says.

Two Air New Zealand flights to Cairns were cancelled on Wednesday.