Cyclone sweeps into Queensland and destroys crops for miles around

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The Independent Online

One of the most powerful storms to strike Australia in more than 30 years crashed into the north-eastern state of Queensland yesterday, flattening crops for miles around, ripping off roofs and reducing many wooden houses to little more than splinters.

No one was killed by Cyclone Larry as it slammed into Australia's eastern coast early yesterday but about 30 people were hurt.

The small farming community of Innisfail, nestled in the heart of Queensland's major banana and sugar cane growing areas, took the brunt of the category five storm. Winds of up to 180mph lashed the community of 8,500 as local residents hunkered down in the main evacuation centre and waited for the storm to pass.

"It looks like an atomic bomb hit the place," said Neil Clarke, Innisfail's Mayor.

Although human casualties were low for a storm of such ferocity, local crops have been destroyed. According to the Australian Banana Growers Council up to 90 percent of the banana crop in the area may have been wrecked.

John Howard, the Prime Minister, said he would visit Innisfail this week and announced a financial relief package for those who had lost their homes.

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