1 Feb 2011

Nursing homes, resorts evacuated ahead of cyclone

6:21 am on 1 February 2011

Evacuations have begun at resorts and nursing homes ahead of what Queensland Premier Anna Bligh says could be one of the largest cyclones in the Australian state's history.

Emergency Management Queensland, police and weather officials have met to discuss the possible threat of Cyclone Yasi.

The Category 3 storm is buffeting the northern-most province of Vanuatu with winds of up to 100km/h and was expected to ease on Monday night.

However, there are concerns about damage to food crops in the remote Torres group of islands in the Torba province.

Yasi is expected to intensify before crossing the north Queensland coast late on Wednesday night with winds of up to 260km/h. A cyclone watch is in place from Cairns to Yeppoon, the ABC reports.

Authorities fear Yasi could be as intense as Cyclone Larry, which devastated parts of far north Queensland in 2006.

Ms Bligh says the cyclone is expected to be a Category 4 system by Wednesday and is a very serious threat.

Residents in low-lying waterfront areas between Innisfail and Mackay have been advised to consider leaving their homes on Tuesday.

Evacuations have started at some nursing homes in the main danger zones and at Hamilton Island in the Whitsundays.

All ports from Cairns to Mackay will be closed from late on Tuesday.

Earlier, Cyclone Andrew crossed the north Queensland coast bringing with it strong winds and rain.

Areas between Ayr and Mackay experienced wind gusts of up to 155km/h, the ABC reports. Power was cut to about 10,000 properties in areas including Bowen, Airlie Beach and Sarina.

The cyclone crossed the coast shortly before 10pm (AEST) on Sunday. It has since been downgraded to a Category 1 system and was expected to weaken into a tropical low as it moves further inland.