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Cyclone Ita: Residents assess damage in far north Queensland

Saturday April 12, 2014 - 21:59 EST

Emergency crews in far north Queensland are assessing the damage from Tropical Cyclone Ita, as flooding becomes the major concern for communities hit by the storm.

It crossed the coast as a category four storm near Cape Flattery, north of Cooktown, about 9:00pm on Friday, but weakened as it moved inland.

The cyclone was downgraded to a category one storm at 10:30am (AEST) this morning.

However, a cyclone warning is current for coastal areas from Cape Tribulation to Mackay. A cyclone watch has been declared further south to Yeppoon.

Heavy rain is causing some flooding and authorities have issued flood warnings for several rivers on the far north Queensland coast.

An emergency alert was also issued for flash flooding at the Redlynch Valley Estate in Cairns.



The weather bureau says gales with wind gusts to 100 kilometres per hour are expected between Port Douglas and Innisfail this evening.

Those winds are expected to extend further to Cardwell overnight and down the coast to Townsville and Mackay tomorrow.

Forecaster Doug Fraser says while the system is weakening, it is still dumping big rain.

He says heavy falls will continue through the night.

"Out of the woods with the worst of the effects but still some huge rainfalls being reported up around that Cooktown area - a few reports of 300 millimetres," he said.

"Down as you get closer to Cairns there's been several reports of well over 100mm."

But the bureau says the storm surge threat in Cairns appears to be easing.

Several roads down the coast have been closed due to flooding and fallen debris.

Queensland Premier Campbell Newman is urging people not to travel around unnecessarily.

"I do want to stress this evening the threat is for flooding all the way down the coast heading down towards even the Whitsundays. Yeppoon is on a weather alert," he said.

"People should minimise unnecessary travel. If it is flooded, forget it. Don't drive into flooded water courses."

In Cooktown, the West Coast Hotel and at least two houses have had their roofs blown off but other major structural damage appears to have been kept to a minimum.

There have also been reports of damage to buildings in Hope Vale, and thousands of residents in the region are still without power.

Emergency Management Queensland's Daryl Camp says damage in the main streets of Cooktown is less than expected but it is still very dangerous.

"We found one commercial building in the CBD has lost its roof, there's a few powerlines down around town, there's trees and debris across the road," he said.

"We're asking people to stay indoors if they don't have to come out, because we'd like to make the place safe before we get people moving around too much."

He says four emergency crews are assessing the damage.

"There's two crews doing rapid damage assessment and two crews doing clean-up and trying to see if anybody needs assistance," he said.



Cooktown shelter toilets fail to flush

Most people have been released from the Cooktown cyclone shelter, while 300 are still in the Hope Vale evacuation centre.

Earlier this morning, Cook Shire Deputy Mayor Penny Johnson said there was no water or air-conditioning in the cyclone shelter at Cooktown.

The centre's water pump failed overnight so toilets were not flushing.

Cooktown boatie Rob McDonald says his wife and their kitten spent a long night in the shelter.

He says parts of the building struggled in the high winds.

"There was a problem with the air-conditioning apartment above that room - there was a lot of pressure from the wind coming in and bringing water with it," he said.

"The room was partially flooded and the pressure nearly blew the doors out that connected that room to the rest of the gymnasium, and they had to actually open one of the doors to let the pressure through."

The manager of Cooktown's 140-year-old West Coast Hotel, Dave Gay, spent the night in his bottleshop cold room.

He says the main hotel building lost its roof during the height of the storm.

"It looks like it's all in one piece, so she went off pretty heavy and I thought 'oh well'," he said.

"We could hear the glass going one by one so I just opened another stubby."

IGA supermarket area manager Damon Pattinson says the Cooktown store is well prepared to supply residents following the cyclone.

"We haven't had any structural damage to my knowledge to the supermarket," he said.

"We invested in a really good generator for that store, so we haven't lost power into that store. All of our dairy freezers - our meat, our delicatessen - we've been able to maintain our fridges and our freezers out the back so we've retained all of our stock, which is a good thing."



A long night for residents

Bloomfield resident Dot, who is in her home south of Cooktown, said on Friday night the severe wind wreaked havoc on neighbouring properties.

"We just heard someone's roof or something go about 10 minutes ago," she said.

"Just like a big piece of tin, like a roof going... and we've heard about three trees go."

Cooktown resident Andrew was relieved to hear the storm was weakening.

"It's been really scary I have to say, but things are lightening up now so it's all good," he said.

"Just the noise of the wind and the trees hitting the side of the house."

Hope Vale resident Matt spent the night in the bathroom of his home.

"It was a bit tense there for a while but it's all settled down a bit now - so far so good," he said.

"It's been a long night ... I just wasn't sure when I could come out of my bathroom. I kept hearing strange noises."


- ABC

© ABC 2014

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