Cyclone Ita heading for Coral Sea

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IOL pic apr14 Great Barrier Reef

Associated Press

Tourists snorkel around Upolu Cay on the Great Barrier Reef. Cyclone Ita, which threatened the region, is moving out towards the Coral Sea. File picture: Brian Cassey

Sydney -

Cyclone Ita rolled out into the Coral Sea on Monday, leaving thousands of homes without power and floods down Australia's Barrier Reef coast, officials said, as danger warnings were lifted.

Downgraded from a Category 4 to a Category 1 storm after making landfall late on Friday, Ita swept off the coast with gales and torrential rain trailing in its wake.

Electricity was slowly being restored to 16 000 homes that were cut off while floods closed local roads, emergency officials said. No deaths or major destruction were reported.

The Bureau of Meteorology lifted the last cyclone warning south of Mackay and north of Rockhampton on Monday morning and Ita was expected to be further downgraded to a low pressure system during the day.

“Tropical Cyclone Ita is expected to maintain a south-east track as it moves offshore away from the Queensland coast,” the latest bulletin said.

Further north in Cooktown, which bore the brunt of the storm, water was rationed to drinking and “minimal” sanitation only, with severe shortages due to storm damage.

Queensland premier Campbell Newman inspected the damage in Cooktown on Sunday, where four buildings were destroyed and another 50 were damaged by the storm. Banana plantations in the region were flattened.

Newman said rain had damaged up to 20 homes and another 30 had been cut off in the tourist town of Port Douglas by flooding.

He appointed a disaster recovery co-ordinator for three months to oversee the clean-up.

Tropical cyclones are common in Australia's north-east and north-west. - Sapa-AFP


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