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Tropical storm lashes Australia

A powerful cyclone ripped roofs off buildings and uprooted trees across Australia's northeastern coast.

india Updated: Mar 20, 2006 11:58 IST

A powerful cyclone ripped roofs off buildings and uprooted trees across Australia's northeastern coast on Monday, packing winds so powerful that emergency workers were forced to stay inside despite pleas from terrified residents.

With winds of up to 290 kph, Tropical Cyclone Larry smashed into the coastal community of Innisfail, about 100 km south of Cairns, a popular jumping-off point for the Great Barrier Reef, sending hundreds of tourists and residents fleeing for higher ground.

Only three people had been reported injured so far, including a woman struck by flying glass and two people hurt when they fell down, a Queensland state police spokeswoman in Innisfail said.

A spokeswoman for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority said it was too early to assess damage to the World Heritage Listed coral, which is visited by hundreds of thousands of tourists each year.

"At the moment it's too difficult for emergency services to get out, let alone us," the spokeswoman said on condition of anonymity because she is not a reef expert. She said assessment teams would head to the reef in coming days to check damage.

Winds were so strong that police were unable to venture out and help the many terrified residents who called to say that the gale-force winds ripped the roofs off buildings and destroyed their homes, the spokeswoman said, speaking on condition of anonymity, citing agency policy.

First Published: Mar 20, 2006 09:00 IST