Australia

North-east Australia braces for flooding from cyclone Hamish

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Last Updated: Mon, 9 Mar 2009 10:48:00 +1100

Residents along central and southern coasts of Australia's north-east state of Queensland are preparing for flooding from a predicted storm surge caused by tropical cyclone Hamish.

Hamish is 230 kilometres north-north-east of the town of Yeppoon and about 400 kilometres north of Bundaberg.

The cyclone is weakening and coastal communities are likely to be spared any major damage as the category 4 storm continues to travel south.

But tourists have been evacuated from resorts on Great Keppell, Herron and Lady Elliot islands.

And sandbags were placed to protect hundreds of homes in the town of Yeppoon, while the hospital there was evacuated.

A cyclone watch is in place for Hervey Bay south to Tewantin.

The Fraser Coast Regional Council says it is still to decide whether to move 10,000 people out of low-lying areas near Hervey Bay.

Call for calm

Mayor Mick Kruger says they are expecting a four-metre storm surge on Tuesday and residents may have to leave their homes.

"We're not used to this sort of a warning and I hope [residents] don't panic," he said.

The Queensland state leader, Premier Anna Bligh, said even though the cyclone threat might ease, her government is still putting emergency plans in place.

"There's still a lot of watching and careful monitoring and preparations to go," she said.

"We are preparing for the worst and hoping for the best."

Ms Bligh says she will attend a meeting of the State Disaster Coordinating Committee to discuss what decisions will be made for Hervey Bay residents and what advice to give to the community.

"We've already evacuated Fraser Island - there were some 3,000 people there, as well as Lady Elliott and Heron Island," she said.

"So we are taking very serious precautions because we understand how unpredictable this event could be."

Monitoring

Weather forecasters say modelling of the cyclone's path suggests the strongest wind gusts of up to 250 kilometres per hour should stay off the coast, but that could change if Hamish steers back towards the coast.

Observers says it generated strong winds and big swells overnight, with the highest tides of the year recorded in some areas.

More heavy rain is expected on Monday.

At its strongest on Saturday night, Hamish was equal to cyclone Larry of 2006 and the Atlantic hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Queensland's emergency services minister, Neil Roberts, says the cyclone is likely to generate storm surges and residents in low-lying areas need to be prepared to leave their homes.

Australian Broadcasting Corporation
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