A massive cyclone is battering north-eastern Australia, tearing roofs off buildings, toppling trees and cutting power to thousands.
The eye of Cyclone Yasi came ashore at the small resort town of Mission Beach in Queensland state, hitting the coast known to tourists as the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef with heavy rain and howling winds gusting to 186mph.
Yasi - the most powerful storm to hit the area in nearly a century - compounded the suffering for Queensland, waterlogged by months of flooding that killed 35 people and inundated hundreds of communities.
It struck an area north of the flood zone, but the Bureau of Meteorology said it would bring drenching rains that could cause floods in new parts of the state.
Witnesses reported roofs being ripped off, buildings shaking and trees flattened under the power of the winds. Officials said the storm surge would flood some places to roof level. More than 10,000 people were inside 20 evacuation centres in a danger zone stretching 190 miles, while many others moved in with family or friends in safer locations.
The storm's front was about 300 miles across, with the worst of the winds expected to lash the coast for up to four hours, although blustery conditions and heavy rain could last for a day. The extent of the damage would not be known until first light, officials said.
In the city of Cairns, about 75 miles north of Mission Beach, guests at a waterfront hotel took cover in the central ballroom as lights flickered. Staff members handed out torches and pinned curtains shut over windows to reduce the danger of shattering.
In Innisfail, a town about 55 miles south of Cairns that sat nearly in the direct path of the storm, mayor Bill Shannon said he saw the roof torn off a building near the local government building where about 500 people were sheltering. "We're just hoping and praying we can all get through the night," Mr Shannon said.
Storm surges of at least 6.5ft were likely and would almost certainly flood some coastal communities, forecasters said, adding that up to 28in of rain could fall within hours in some areas.
At highest risk was an area about 150 miles long between Cairns and the sugar cane-growing town of Ingham, the bureau said. The storm was forecast to continue inland at cyclone strength for two days and gradually weaken, but winds had already knocked out power to about 90,000 homes.