Queenslanders told to stay put as Yasi closes in

An image of Tropical Cyclone Yasi on February 2, 2011. [NOAA]
PHOTO

An image of Tropical Cyclone Yasi on February 2, 2011. [NOAA]

VIDEO

Anna Bligh on Tropical Cyclone Yasi

Created: 02/02/2011

VIDEO

Tropical Cyclone Yasi poses worst threat

Created: 02/02/2011

AUDIO

Townsville makes last-minute preparations

Created: 02/02/2011

AUDIO

Yasi takes out research centre

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AUDIO

Residents flee inland to escape cyclone

Created: 02/02/2011

Last Updated: Wed, 2 Feb 2011 20:24:00 +1100

Residents in the Australian state of Queensland have been warned that it is too late to evacuate ahead of "catastrophic" Cyclone Yasi.

Wind gusts of up to 125 kilometres per hour have already begun buffeting parts of the coast as Yasi closes in.

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh says Ms Bligh says people in affected areas must shelter where they currently are, with conditions now too dangerous to travel in.

"No-one should be leaving home now. The time for movement and evacuation has now passed," she said.

"People should be sheltering in places wherever they are, we expect to see very dramatic acceleration of wind gusts over the next couple of hours.

"Evacuation centres do not expect to see more people; it is now time for all movement and evacuation to cease."

Ms Bligh says the category five system is the "most catastrophic storm ever seen" in the state and will pack winds of up to 295 kilometres per hour.

She says over 10,000 people are sheltering in evacuation centres and people should now focus on barricading the most secure room in their house.

"For those who are ... bunkering down, if you haven't already filled your bathtub with water, do so, you may need it for drinking purposes," she said.

"If you haven't already taped your windows, please take the time now to do so, and take with you ... things that will buffer the room - mattresses, doonas, rain coats.

"The other advice is to make sure you and your family have proper shoes on, you will need them when you are able eventually to get out of the house."

The weather bureau says Cyclone Yasi poses an "extremely serious threat" to life and property within the warning area, especially between Port Douglas and Townsville.

Centres closed


Evacuation centres in Cairns are closed after taking in thousands of people, but 10 evacuation centres on the Atherton Tablelands are still taking people, with another two expected to open shortly.

Locals and tourists have piled into an evacuation centre in an underground carpark in Townsville where it is noisy, muggy and uncomfortable.

British backpacker Stefan Marcello was told to get out of Cardwell further north, but he has concerns about the carpark.

"It doesn't seem like logically the best place to be," he said.

'On your own'


Queensland's state disaster coordinator is also warning residents they will be on their own for up to 24 hours as Yasi pummels the state.

The weather bureau says the huge storm is expected to slam into the coast between Innisfail and Cardwell about midnight AEST.

Deputy police commissioner Ian Stewart says emergency service workers will be unable to respond to people in need during the 24-hour period when the cyclone is at its peak.

He says emergency workers need to take shelter as well so they can support the community once the storm has passed.

"People have to understand that they need to become first responders themselves to ensure the safety of their family, themselves and their neighbours," he said.

"But please, please do not take unnecessary risks. That would be a tragedy."

He says people should be getting ready to enter the safest and strongest part of their homes, which is normally the bathroom or toilet area.

But Ms Bligh has reassured residents the emergency response will kick in immediately after the danger has passed.

"We intend to be there from the very minute it is possible to be there, to make sure that we can keep people as safe as possible," she said.

"To all of those people listening, all of those in their homes, can I say I know that you are now in the thoughts of every Australian, and I hope that you feel that as a great strength in the many hours that are ahead of you."

Cairns Mayor Val Schier says residents are in for a horrifying ordeal.

"We look to what happened in Cyclone Tracy, where people ended up underneath mattresses in bathrooms," she said.

"That may be the situation here if windows blow in and flying debris damages houses or if roofs go ... but we just have to hope for the best and that people are well prepared."

Further south in Mackay, residents are also continuing to prepare for the storm.

Resident Tulane Deguara says she lives in a low-lying area and has made preparations to leave her house if necessary, but she says her thoughts are with people in the far north.

"It's really sad. I sent a message to my friends in Cairns this morning but they can only do what we can do and hope for the best," she said.

The Mackay Regional Council says residents in coastal and low-lying areas should prepare for a possible storm surge and significant rainfall.

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