4 Feb 2011

Premier confirms Cyclone Yasi death

10:16 pm on 4 February 2011

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh has confirmed one person has died in the wake of a massive cyclone in the north of the Australian state.

Ms Bligh said a 23-year-old man died after being overwhelmed by fumes from the diesel generator he was using while sheltering in a small room in Bambaroo, near Ingham.

A man missing in the Cardwell area has been found safe and well, but authorities are still searching for another man after the Category 5 storm which destroyed homes and shredded crops as it roared ashore on Thursday morning.

The coastal towns of Tully, Mission Beach, Cardwell, Silkwood and Innisfail and other smaller areas bore the brunt of 285km/h winds. Most of the buildings in Tully have been extensively damaged.

The premier says an army convoy is at the top of the Cardwell range and is ready to move in as soon as the roads are clear. Other agencies are also on stand-by ready to help.

The ABC reports some people who left their houses to avoid the cyclone are still trying to get back home and it is proving to be a frustrating experience.

Sea surges and heavy rain have caused flooding across the Bruce Highway, the major route north. Police are warning people to stay off the roads until the debris is cleared.

Hundreds of cars and trucks ended up in a huge traffic jam leading to Townsville after receiving mixed messages about whether the road was open.

Police have arrested six people for looting in Townsville and have called in more officers to help.

PM to visit devastated areas

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard is in north Queensland to inspect the destruction left by Cyclone Yasi.

More than 180,000 homes and businesses are still without power on Friday. The State Emergency Service has received more than 4000 calls for help.

Ms Gillard flew into Townsville on Thursday night, saying she wanted to offer comfort and reassurance to those who had been through the frightening experience.

"I would prefer that my visit to Queensland was for other purposes, but we're here because nature has been continuing to throw challenges at Queensland," she said.

"Every step of the way Queenslanders have shown they're made of such tough stuff."

The Australian government has already promised disaster relief payments to those affected.

More cyclones predicted

The Bureau of Meteorology says there is a very good chance that more cyclones will hit Australia before the season is over.

Communities in north-west Queensland are preparing for Yasi, now a Category 1 storm on Friday.

Bureau director Chris Ryan says Yasi was more intense than Cyclone Tracy and Cyclone Larry and more could be on the way.

"The waters all around tropical Australia are still abnormally warm," he said.

"The predictions for the general activity and the monsoon that covers northern Australia at this time of year, are that it will actually intensify to some extent over the next couple of weeks," he said.

"So there's certainly every chance that we will see one or more cyclones on either or both sides of the continent over the next couple of months."