Cyclone Yasi Churns Toward Flood-Ravaged Queensland

A potentially deadly storm system, Cyclone Yasi, is swirling toward Australia’s northeastern state of Queensland, an area still recovering from last month’s massive flooding.

On Tuesday officials airlifted hospital patients out of the cyclone’s path and urged residents in low-lying areas to evacuate immediately due to risk of flash flooding. The evacuation warnings were not mandatory.

Queensland state Premier told reporters that the 400-mile front Yasi “is huge and life threatening.”

Experts said the Category 3 storm could be the worst cyclone in Queensland’s history after it hits the coast as a Category 4 storm Wednesday.

The storm was expected to unleash winds of 131 to 155 mph and dump up to 3 feet of rain on areas already ravaged by flooding, the Bureau of Meteorology said.

Those floods left 35 people dead from December to Jan. 13, affecting 30,000 homes and businesses in the Brisbane area, UPI reports. The government expects damages from the tropical deluge to cost about $5.6 billion.

Yasi was expected to steer north of Brisbane, but Bligh urged all the flood-weary residents of Queenland’s coastal communities to prepare for the worst.

“It’s such a big storm – it’s a monster, killer storm – that it’s not just about where this crosses the coast that is at risk,” Bligh said, as quoted by The Associated Press.

“I know many of us will feel that Queensland has already borne about as much as we can bear when it comes to disasters and storms,” she said. “But more is being asked of us.”

The storm was expected to hit hardest in Cairns, a tourist gateway city of some 164,000 people. More than 9,000 people were ordered to evacuate from that region.

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