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Chart predicting course of Cyclone Yasi towards Australia. Australia's Bureau of Meteorology

Evacuations begin as cyclone edges closer to Australian coast

Tens of thousands of people have been ordered to evacuate as a category-four tropical storm heads for northeastern Australia.

EVACUATIONS HAVE BEGUN ahead of the expected arrival of Cyclone Yasi on the northeastern coast of Australia tomorrow.

The storm is due to reach shore tomorrow night or by early Thursday morning, local time.

Australia’s Meteorological Bureau says Yasi is a category-four cyclone which poses “a serious threat to north Queensland communities”.

The coastal area between Cooktown and Ingham has been identified as being most in danger from the storm’s destructive high winds.

At a special briefing today, Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said that the current tracking of the cyclone expects the storm to land closer to Cairns than expected. However, the storm surge level has been revised down slightly.

Around 30,000 people in the potential path of the cyclone have already received orders to evacuate their homes, according to the Cairns Post. Bligh said today that anyone who does not have any friends or relatives to stay with can access emergency accommodation.

Eleven planes will evacuate patients from Cairns hospitals and transfer them to Brisbane to ensure “very ill, very vulnerable patients are in the safest place possible”, Bligh said. Over 200 people have been evacuated from nursing homes in the region.

Queensland is still recovering from weeks of serious flooding – the worst to strike the state for decades.

This storm is expected to bring heavy rainfall which could lead to further floods by the end of this week. The sea level between Cairns and Townville is also expected to rise “significantly above the normal tide” during the storm.

The Queensland state disaster management agency is warning residents who plan to stay at home during the storm to beware of the eye of the storm, which could mistakenly encourage people to venture out prematurely.

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