Australia: Queensland coast is about to hit by a deadliest tropical Cyclone Yasi with ferocity the likes of which hasn’t been seen since 1918 as officials warned it could be the deadliest storm in generations.

Yasi was upgraded to a category five storm from category four as it menaced the populous east coast, where it was expected to hit around 10pm (1200 GMT) on Wednesday, the Bureau of Meteorology said. Yasi is on track to make landfall between Innisfail and Cardwell about 11pm (AEST) tonight (2am Thursday NZT), with authorities confident they have the site within a 30km range of accuracy.

The cyclone already has winds of 295km/h that have knocked out weather monitoring equipment on Willis Island, off Cairns, and was bringing down trees at Ayr, near Townsville, on Wednesday morning.

Yasi will cross the coast on the high tide, meaning a storm surge that will accompany it will be devastating for low-lying areas.

At Cardwell it could build to seven metres, and at Townsville up to three metres. Yasi, packing a 650-kilometre (400-mile) front and an eye measuring about 35 kilometres across, was on course to slam directly into the area between the tourist hub of Cairns and Cardwell to the south.

“This is probably the worst cyclone that our nation has ever seen. In the hours of destruction that are coming to them, all of Australia is going to be thinking of them,” said Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

Yasi is as enormous as United States. Locals and tourists were warned to stay where they were and not to risk moving until the storm had passed.
Expecting a massive relief operation, the military was well prepared with supply ships with aircraft landing capability to help with search and rescue once the storm passed. A similar mission was mounted after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

Forecasters said Yasi could be “horrific” and take 24 hours to weaken after it makes landfall.

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