“The size of this storm is immense…”
One of the largest cyclones in the history of Queensland is about to slam into the north of state:
Cyclone Yasi will hit the north Queensland coast with greater ferocity than devastating Cyclone Larry, according to Premier Anna Bligh.
Thousands of residents, as well as patients at Cairns hospital, face the prospect of evacuations today as the huge storm front bears down.
Latest modelling indicates the cyclone has moved slightly north and is now due to cross the coast between Tully and Lucinda, about 140 kilometres north of Townsville.
The evacuations have begun:
Cairns hospitals could be evacuated later today, with hundreds of patients facing the prospect of being ferried to Brisbane by the defence force.
Premier Bligh said the Cairns Base Hospital, located on the esplanade, currently had 300 in-patients and could be at risk from a storm surge.
“We are now looking seriously at an evacuation of Cairns Base Hospital,” she told reporters today.
Ms Bligh said the Australian Defence Force was planning to carry the patients to Brisbane by Hercules later today.
“It’s a very big exercise,” she said. “Some patients may be able to return home earlier than they planned, others may need to be evacuated.”
Ms Bligh said Cairns Private Hospital, which had 60 patients, may also need to be evacuated.
There was capacity in Brisbane hospitals to look after the patients, but some elective surgery may need to be cancelled.
Mandatory evacuations of residents have been flagged in the Cairns area and south of there.
Airports and coal terminals are being closed:
“…Townsville and Cairns Airports are currently open and fully operational, but both are expected to close in the next 24 hours.
Most of the flights to Brisbane today have sold out, with reports of huge price spikes for one-way ticket prices.
Coal terminals have been shut at Bowen and Mackay. The only coal port open is Gladstone, in central Queensland, where seven ships are due to be loaded. There are about 50 bulk coal carriers anchored off the Dalrymple Bay terminal near Mackay that will travel out to sea to ride out the cyclone.”
Queensland is a state that is being wrecked end-to-end.