Relief as Ita threat eases

In the end, Ita was no Yasi or Larry – and North Queenslanders who lived through those recent devastating cyclones were grateful for that.

Authorities had been warning Cyclone Ita, bearing down on Queensland as a category five, could have a bigger impact than Yasi three years ago.

Cooktown residents were warned that properties built before 1985 may not withstand the powerful winds. Hundreds left their homes for cyclone shelters.

But the cyclone, which roared across the far north coast at Cape Flattery about midnight NZT yesterday as a category four, with powerful winds and heavy rains, did not cause as much damage as had been feared.

No lives were lost, no injuries were reported, no houses were lost and early reports are of damage limited to some roofs off and downed trees and power lines. Power was cut in several places, while flash flooding has cut off several roads.

Cook Shire Mayor Peter Scott said Cooktown had come through relatively unscathed, despite fears it would experience the worst of Ita.

"There will be people out there whose homes have been wrecked and a lot of people who are stressed, but I think in the main we've fared very well," Scott said.

Ita uprooted trees and fence posts, snapped powerlines and ripped the roof off the West Coast Hotel and at least one home in the coastal community of 2300 people, north of the Daintree National Park.

In Cairns, a fallen tree in the city centre appeared to be the most significant effect of Cyclone Ita with the city spared storm surges.

"Yes, I think we have dodged a bullet," said Mayor Bob Manning.

Premier Campbell Newman was relieved as well, but he warned residents that the danger was not over.

Ita weakened quickly after crossing the coast, and was downgraded to a category one yesterday, but heavy rains were not easing.

Newman said he would head to Cooktown when weather permitted. He is also concerned for the township of Hope Vale, which was cut off from communications except police radio frequencies.

Newman vowed small communities left isolated by the cyclone would be helped.

Military helicopters were on standby to help residents if needed.

Southwest of Cooktown, the Mulligan Highway was cut off with the Annan River flooded.

In other areas of far north Queensland, the Captain Cook Highway was closed in certain parts because of flooding.


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