Sugar town faces disaster for second time

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The Independent Online

In 2006 the small sugar town of Innisfail, near the north Queensland coast, was virtually destroyed by Cyclone Larry, a category-four storm. Today, Innisfail was set to wake up to even worse scenes after being battered by a storm said to be twice the size and far stronger than Larry.

Innisfail is only about 30 miles from the tourist centre of Mission Beach, where Cyclone Yasi made landfall this morning. Locals were waiting for dawn to see what damage had been wreaked, but last night the mayor, Bill Shannon, said the category-five storm had hit the town hard. Mr Shannon said the powerful winds and heavy rain that heralded Yasi's arrival were already causing destruction five hours before it struck land. He saw the roof torn off a building near the council chambers where 500 people were sheltering.

Cyclone Larry caused A$1.5bn of damage when it battered agricultural areas around Innisfail, destroying banana and sugarcane plantations as well as thousands of homes. It was Australia's second costliest storm after Cyclone Tracy, which flattened Darwin in 1974.

Like the rest of the Cassowary Coast region, Innisfail is extremely cyclone-prone, and locals are accustomed to these tropical storms during the southern hemisphere summer. Once in a while, though, a particularly devastating one comes along. Cyclone Larry, which made landfall close to Innisfail with wind gusts of up to 150mph, was one of them.