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Last Updated: Wednesday February 02 2011 18:07 GMT

Thousands flee as Cyclone Yasi batters Australia

A satellite image of Cyclone Yasi approaching the coast of Australia

Cyclone smashes Australia's east coast

A huge storm has struck the coast of Queensland in Australia, wrenching roofs off buildings and cutting power to thousands and thousands of homes.

The storm blew in at around 186 miles per hour and will take several hours to blow through any given area.

More than 10,000 people have left their homes and moved into evacuation centres, as Cyclone Yasi batters the north-east coast of Australia.

People are being warned to expect 24 hours of heavy wind and heavy rain.

The cyclone is expected to bring widespread flooding and badly damage buildings.

Those who haven't left their homes are being told to tape up their windows and prepare a 'safe room' with bedding, food and water, and a radio.

State Premier Anna Bligh said that Yasi could be "the most catastrophic storm to ever hit our coast" and that "people should be sheltering wherever they are".

The cyclone comes soon after heavy rain cause huge floods across large parts of Queensland in December and January.