Australia Cyclone: Tropical Cyclone Yasi Now Category 5
Australia Cyclone: Tropical Cyclone Yasi Now Category 5

Tropical Cyclone Yasi, pictured on the far upper right portion of the map, is heading toward northern Queensland. It was upgraded to a category 5 on Tuesday. (Australia Bureau of Meteorology)
Tropical Cyclone Yasi, pictured on the far upper right portion of the map, is heading toward northern Queensland. It was upgraded to a category 5 on Tuesday. (Australia Bureau of Meteorology)
Click here for latest Cyclone Yasi update

Tropical Cyclone Yasi has been upgraded to a category 5 system and is predicted to smash into Queensland's far north coast near Innisfail around midnight Wednesday local time, according to the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM).

In its most recent website warning, BOM said the large and very powerful system poses "an extremely serious threat to life and property," particularly along the 340-kilometer (212 mile) stretch of coastline between Cairns and Townsville.

"This impact is likely to be more life threatening than any experience during recent generations," the warning added.

BOM predicts extremely dangerous sea level rise as Yasi approaches, along with damaging waves, strong currents, and flooding in low-lying areas, extending some way inland. Destructive winds gusting up to 300 kilometers per hour (185 miles per hour) are expected by Wednesday night.

The severe tropical cyclone is now larger than Cyclone Larry, which struck the northern part of Queensland in 2006, also near Innisfail, causing $1.5 billion in damage and affecting around 10,000 homes.

"This cyclone is a monster," local expert Dr Douglas Goudie at James Cook University's Center for Disaster Studies told the Brisbane Times, in reference to Yasi.

Goudie predicts a two-meter surge above the highest of tide levels that will swamp much of the Cairns central business district, around one hour's drive north of Innisfail.

"This surge would be powered by winds of around 280 km per hour and that would produce ferociously powerful waves that would be terribly destructive," Goudie said, according to the Times. "These waves might not be very high but they would be carrying objects that could smash into buildings and we could see a lot of damage."

Cairns Mayor Val Schier told ABC-TV that locals may see Cyclone Tracy-like scenes, referring to the 1974 cyclone that wiped out around 70 percent of Darwin and killed 71 people.

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