Evacuations begin as Cyclone Ita bears down on Queensland coast
Premier Campbell Newman cuts short visit to China to oversee preparations for storm which could bring 240km/h winds
It poses a significant threat to sparse communities between Cape Grenville and the Lockhart river, with strong gusts, storm surges and heavy rain beginning on Thursday.
The storm comes three years after category five Yasi ripped through Queensland, causing $3.5bn worth of damage and lost tourism earnings.
Yasi unleashed its wrath about 1,000km south of where Ita is forecast to cross.
"The winds won't be as strong as Yasi, but it will be the worst we've had since," Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Andrew Cameron said.
I rang my daughter in Australia yesterday ( Wednesday), not knowing that they were busy putting up shutters and securing the things around the house, because they are expecting cyclone Ita. They live near Cooktown. I am praying that they survive and won't lose their house and that they won't be flooded. They will all hide in the smallest room when it arrives on Friday, four pm.I follow the news on Face Book.
All staff and guests have been evacuated off Lizard Island on the Great Barrier Reef as a precaution. The last time the resort was evacuated was during Yasi, although the island wasn't affected.
Premier Campbell Newman has also cut short his Asian trade mission with prime minister Tony Abbott and will fly home on Thursday to oversee preparations for Ita.
Those in the small Cape York communities likely to be affected spent Wednesday stocking up on supplies and clearing yards.
Peter Scott, mayor of Cookshire council, which covers 80% of Cape York, says Ita could be one of the worst storms to hit the area in decades.
"Residents need to be ready and have somewhere safe to shelter," he said.
He said there was a good supply of food and fuel.
Meanwhile, local district disaster management groups are holding meetings across the state's far north on Wednesday.Far north district acting chief superintendent Brett Schafferius says there are no plans for evacuations but extra police will be sent to affected areas.
Staff from Emergency Management Queensland (EMQ), including a swift water rescue team, will head to Cooktown on Thursday.
Road and electricity resources have also been sent to the state's north.
Before forming into cyclone Ita, the tropical depression led to 21 deaths in Solomon Islands last week.
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