Australia marshaled 4,000 troops and sent a supply ship with tonnes of food to its cyclone-stricken northeast coast yesterday, as awe-struck residents in wrecked towns confronted debris that included boats tossed into yards.
Authorities confirmed the first death from the storm that slammed into the coast early on Thursday and said a search was under way for two missing people.
Cyclone Yasi flattened dozens of homes and ripped roofs and walls from dozens more. It cut power supplies in two cities and laid waste to hundreds of millions of dollars worth of banana and sugar cane crops.
“I just hope we don’t get forgotten,” said Lisa Smith, whose house had part of its roof torn off in the seaside town of Cardwell.
She said state and federal officials had not yet given her remote community any substantial help.
Residents and officials were amazed that the death toll was not higher. The storm whipped the coast with up to 280kph winds and sent waves crashing ashore two blocks into waterfront communities, as tens of thousands of people huddled in evacuation centers.
Power supplies and telephone services were gradually being restored yesterday, and roads cleared of downed trees and other debris. The efforts were hampered by drenching rain in many parts of the disaster zone.
In Cardwell, rain pounded down yesterday on already inundated homes through gaping holes in roofs. The waterfront library was in shambles: The roof had collapsed, the books were drenched and the front door lay in the center of the building.
The main road into town was torn into chunks in places and piles of sand washed ashore by tidal surges blocked it elsewhere. Yachts and leisure cruisers were piled atop each other at the marina, and some washed up on the boardwalk.
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said 4,000 troops would help with the cleanup operation, and that more than 600 police and emergency services workers were fanning out with chain saws and heavy machinery.
A ship carrying 2,750 tonnes of food and other aid was to arrive yesterday in Townsville, from where it would be trucked to smaller towns.