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New cyclone hits Australia

A cyclone struck a glancing blow on Australia's main northern city today, two weeks after a much stronger storm devastated another part of the weather-weary country.

Cyclone Carlos knocked down trees and power lines and caused limited flooding as it passed the city of Darwin with heavy rain and wind gusts up to 80mph.

Schools, the airport and government buildings were closed, but officials said evacuations were not needed.

Emergency services rescued several people from cars that stalled in floodwaters. One man was taken to hospital after being injured by a falling tree, the Australian Broadcasting Corp reported.

The storm passed within two miles of the city but stayed offshore. The Bureau of Meteorology warned it could circle back toward the city tomorrow but that the cyclone's path is proving erratic.

Residents were warned to stay off the streets because of the blustery winds. Police went door-to-door in several low-lying coastal suburbs telling people their properties could be inundated by extra-high tides. Residents stocked up on bottled water and food and queued at filling stations for fuel.

Police Commissioner John McRoberts said people should prepare for rough weather but that there was no need for people to evacuate. "I certainly recommend preparedness, but not panic and there is a very significant difference," he told reporters.

Darwin is the unofficial capital of Australia's tropical "Top End", a vast, sparsely populated zone that stretches for thousands of miles and that experiences about half a dozen cyclones a year.

Cyclone Tracy devastated the city and killed 71 people at Christmas in 1974 in one of the country's worst natural disasters. A sturdier city was rebuilt under a stricter building code.

Cyclone Yasi, a category 5 storm that officials said was Australia's largest in a century, crashed ashore in north-eastern Queensland state on February 3, smashing scores of houses in coastal communities but causing no deaths.

Yasi came on top of Australia's worst flooding in decades, which destroyed 35,000 homes, inundated the country's third largest city, Brisbane, and killed 35 people.

The government estimated last week its bill for roads, bridges and other infrastructure damaged by the Queensland flooding before Yasi was at least 5.6 billion Australian dollars (£3.4 billion).