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Last Updated: Sunday March 08 2009 13:56 GMT

Australia braced for huge cyclone

Police on patrol to help with the evacuations

Loads of people are being moved from popular holiday islands off the east coast of Australia because they're in the path of a huge tropical storm.

Cyclone Hamish is said to be moving south off the coast of Queensland, and inland towards the Whitsunday Islands, carrying winds of up to 280km per hour.

Several islands have been evacuated and coastal towns are being patrolled by the army and extra emergency services.

It's the latest natural disaster to threaten Australia in recent months.

So far this year, different parts of the country have suffered from flooding, heat waves, and most recently, in the southern state of Victoria, devastating wild fires.

Destruction

Now strong winds and heavy rain are already battering several coastal towns on the Queensland mainland as cyclone Hamish approaches.

Up to 10,000 people have been told to consider leaving their homes before the cyclone strikes.

Weather experts think the cyclone could be as destructive as cyclone Larry, which smashed into Queensland three years ago causing more than £300m damage.