Cyclone adds to Australian concerns
A tropical storm has largely spared Australia's flood-ravaged northeast from more damage, but a larger storm was getting stronger in the South Pacific.
Cyclone Anthony hit the Queensland state coast early on Monday morning and quickly weakened from 80 mph winds to a tropical low, the Bureau of Meteorology said.
The storm uprooted trees and knocked down power lines in some areas, but spared communities any major damage.
"We're certainly very happy that there was only minimal structural damage and no injuries or loss of life," Mike Brunker, mayor of the coastal Whitsunday region, said on Monday.
Heavy rains that began in November have caused massive flooding across Australia, killing 35 people and damaging or destroying 30,000 homes and businesses. Brisbane, the country's third-largest city and the capital of Queensland, was under water for days.
The federal government has estimated the cost of the damage is already at 5.6 billion Australian dollars (£3.5 billion) and likely to rise.
Meanwhile, forecasters were watching another cyclone brewing in the South Pacific. Cyclone Yasi strengthened to 63 mph winds on Monday, and was expected to hit Queensland on Thursday. It was expected to intensify further, reaching wind speeds of 98 mph within 24 hours.
"It is a much, much larger system, so it is going to affect a much larger area both with rainfall and with winds," Bureau of Meteorology senior forecaster Gordon Banks told Australian Broadcasting Corp radio.
Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said disaster management officials were on alert and evacuation centers were available if needed.