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Australia Begins Assessing Destruction from Cyclone Yasi

Rudy Luguna surveys the damage in his house he owns with his brother after the roof was ripped off in Tully, Australia, February 3, 2011

Emergency crews along Australia's northeastern coast have begun surveying the damage caused by a powerful cyclone that struck the region early Thursday.

Officials in Queensland state say the coastal communities of Cardwell, Tully and Mission Beach bore the full brunt of Cyclone Yasi, which made landfall early Thursday carrying winds as high as 300 kilometers an hour.

Inspector David Tucker, a local law enforcement offical, says a huge tidal surge in Cardwell caused many boats to wash up on the shoreline and impacted the main highway that runs through the town.

The storm tore the tops off hundreds of homes and buildings in the most affected areas, and downed trees and power lines, leaving nearly 200,000 residents without electricity. It also caused significant damage to Queensland's crucial sugar and banana crops.

But Premier Anna Bligh told reporters there have been no reports of deaths or serious injury.

Tucker says families heeded the initial warnings and evacuated the area well before the storm made landfall. He also credits strong regulations that require houses and other structures be built to withstand cyclones.

The storm is weakening as it moves across the Queensland outback region. It is expected to reach the mining town of Mount Isa, located about 900 kilometers inland, on Friday.

Cyclone Yasi is the latest natural disaster to hit Queensland. Several weeks of heavy rains and flash flooding killed 35 people and caused billions of dollars in damages.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.