CAIRNS, Australia - Metal roofs littered streets, wooden houses lay in splinters and banana plantations were stripped bare after the most powerful cyclone to hit Australia in three decades lashed the country's eastern coast Monday.
Amazingly, the storm caused no reported fatalities, and only 30 people suffered minor injuries. But the damage from Cyclone Larry, a Category 5 storm with winds up to 180 mph, was expected to run into the hundreds of millions of dollars.
Hardest hit was Innisfail, a farming city of 8,500 people 60 miles south of the tourist city of Cairns in northeastern Queensland state. By Tuesday the storm was well inland and downgraded to a severe low pressure system.
"It looks like an atomic bomb hit the place," Innisfail mayor Neil Clarke told Australian television. "It is severe damage. This is more than a local disaster, this is a national disaster."
Prime Minister John Howard on Tuesday pledged his administration would help shattered communities rebuild.
"The federal government will give what is needed to get these communities back on their feet," Howard said in a radio interview. "We just need a day or two to make a proper assessment of how the money can best be spent."
I blame Prime Minister Howard. He should have known this could happen. What is he talking about, "a day or two to make a proper assessment?" Get the federal troops in there and take care of the people! He should have had the help there within minutes! Seconds, even! These Aussies are suffering, I tell you, and a caring PM wouldn't just be spouting platitudes, he'd be doing something.
It's racism, that's what it is. Or classism. It's some kind of 'ism.' He just doesn't care about those who are different from him.
Howard lied, and ... and ... and nobody died! Wait a minute, why didn't anyone die?
The casualty toll was so low because people left town or went to shelters after authorities posted warnings. Residents and officials were mindful of the damage Hurricane Katrina did to New Orleans and Mississippi last August, said Ben Creagh, a spokesman for Queensland state Department of Emergency Services.
You mean an incredibly powerful storm was on it's way and the people actually left the area in response to warnings? Go figure.