HOLD ON: A plane rests upside down on the runway at Cairns.
HOLD ON: A plane rests upside down on the runway at Cairns.

Bad Larry leaves our north reeling



INNISFAIL ? One of the fiercest cyclones in Australian history left thousands of buildings damaged and almost wiped out the banana and sugarcane crops in an early morning assault on the north Queensland coast.

But residents and authorities were astounded that there were no deaths and only few relatively minor injuries after Tropical Cyclone Larry struck yesterday.

The Innisfail region, south of Cairns, bore the brunt of Tropical Cyclone Larry's 290kph winds as it tore roofs from buildings and flattened or uprooted trees. Hundreds of millions of dollars in damage was inflicted as the category five cyclone slammed into the coast yesterday morning, destroying most of Australia's banana crops and flattening sugarcane fields. About 30 people had cuts and abrasions.

Emergency crews were yesterday scrambling to deliver food and water, restore power and provide shelter to the ravaged communities but were hindered by debris blocking roads. Military aircraft and medical personnel were also last night being sent to help in the clean-up. Homes rendered unliveable in the wake of the violent storm forced thousands of shaken residents to turn to temporary shelters and motels.

Authorities had evacuated more than 1000 people in the leadup to the storm.

And while residents begin the heart-breaking task of cleaning up the damage, weather experts are tracking another cyclone, Wati, which has formed behind Larry.

Yesterday it sat near Vanuatu, still days away from potentially hitting the Australian coast. Prime Minister John Howard, who will visit the north this week, said he was relieved few people had been injured and none killed.



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