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Last Updated: Monday March 20 2006 11:01 GMT

Cyclone batters Australia's coast

House with the roof ripped off

A powerful tropical storm has battered the north-east coast of Australia.

Tropical Cyclone Larry brought driving rain and coastal winds of up to 290km/h (180mph), which destroyed homes, uprooted trees and downed power lines.

The storm is thought to have been one of the worst to hit Australia for several decades.

Twelve people were injured in the cyclone, and 50,000 homes are still without power. The government has promised to help affected areas.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard said that families made homeless by the storm would receive emergency aid.

Map of the affected area

The army has also moved in to help with the clear-up operation and helicopters are to be sent to help the clear the devastated area near Innisfail, about 100km (62 miles) south of Cairns.

Queensland's state leader Peter Beattie said many buildings had been flattered by the cyclone.

He said: "The property damage has been immense. We haven't had a cyclone like this for decades, if we've ever had one like it before."

'Terrifying'

Amanda Fitzpatrick, a resident of Innisfail, described the storm as "terrifying".

She told a radio station: "It's just like a bomb has gone off, like something went through and just bombed it."