"The wait is over. The darkest of hours is at hand.
Cyclone Yasi whirled out of the heat and humidity of a tropical afternoon with the intensity and shocking violence of a nuclear explosion. In my part of this shrieking world of wind and driving rain, the windows are shaking, the doors are rattling and trees are bent over. I raise my eyes to the ceiling with trepidation. Will the roof hold?"
This is how a correspondent for the daily Australian began his coverage of Cyclone Yasi. The cyclone, packing three hundred kilometers per hour winds. has hit Australia's shore with more punch than Hurricane Katrina that left 1800 dead and wreaked $80 billion worth of damage to the southeastern United States.
The cyclone causes high water to surge through people's houses and therefore entire communities, some containing scores of thousands of people, have been evacuated. Regular shelters are now overloaded and office buildings and hotels have been commandeered as substitutes.
The Australian state of Queensland, which is still reeling from last month's heavy flooding, is again the victim of the storm. The state's Premier, Anna Bligh, was again in the unfortunate role of the bearer of grim tidings and helpless resignation. "Without doubt, we are set to encounter scenes of devastation and heartbreak on an unprecedented scale. This cyclone is like nothing else we've dealt with before as a nation."
While obviously the greatest concern is about human loss of life, the cyclone will exact economic damage not only to homes but to the copper, lead and silver mines in the north of the state. The coal mines that were devastated by the floods are expected to sustain less damage. Nearly $1 billion of damage is expected to the sugar and banana crop, so that one result will be that food prices in the region are going to climb higher.
As in the case of the floods, the residents of Queensland have fallen into a state of complacency, because the last time that dangerous cyclones visited the region occurred in the 1970s.