Premier cuts trip as biggest cyclone since Yasi looms
QUEENSLAND Premier Campbell Newman will cut short his Asian trade mission and return to Australia on Thursday as the state's far-north prepares for what is expected to be the most ferocious cyclone since Yasi.
The weather bureau had been tracking Severe Tropical Cyclone Ita's path towards Papa New Guinea and northern Queensland since the start of the week but by Wednesday night residents in low-lying areas between Cape Grenville to the northern edge of Cairns were being warned to prepare to evacuate.
Sitting at Category Three cyclone with winds building to 240kms per hour, the storm was expected to continue to develop off the coast between the Cape and the holiday town of Port Douglas on Thursday.
By Friday, Ita is expected to peak Category Four and make landfall somewhere between the Lockhart River and Cape Flattery, bringing gale-force winds of up to 280kms near the core and extending to surrounding communities.
Should the cyclone maintain it's intensity, the far north will be hit with the kind of destructive winds not seen since Cyclone Yasi, a Category Five storm, destroyed homes, marinas and shredded crops between the Whitsunday Coast and Cairns in February, 2011.
Dangerous tides and flash flooding are expected in the danger zone and around the Peninsula, Tablelands and Tropical Districts.
On Wednesday night, Ita was tracking about 700km east north east of Cooktown, moving towards the coast at 10kmh.
A spokesperson for the Premier said Mr Newman had informed the Prime Minister he would be leaving Asia to oversee preparations for Ita's landfall.
The head of Department of Premier and Cabinet Jon Grayson will take his place overseas.
Updates on Cyclone Ita can be found at www.bom.gov.au