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Cyclone Hamish heads south

ADDITIONAL Emergency Management Queensland personnel and thousands of sandbags and tarps are now in place in major centres between Mackay and Hervey Bay as Tropical Cyclone Hamish continues to move south parallel to the Queensland coast.

Tropical Cyclone Hamish remains a category 4 cyclone, and at 5am on Monday a cyclone warning was current for coastal and island communities from Yeppoon to Hervey Bay. A Cyclone watch is current for coastal and island communities from Hervey Bay to Tewantin. The cyclone warning between Saint Lawrence and Yeppoon has been cancelled.

Cyclone Hamish is located off the central Queensland coast and at 4am EST was estimated to be 230 kilometres north northeast of Yeppoon and 395 kilometres north of Bundaberg, moving southeast at 10 kilometres per hour.

Severe Tropical Cyclone Hamish poses a threat to exposed coastal and island communities between Yeppoon and Hervey Bay (including Heron and Lady Elliot Islands). The cyclone is expected to maintain a southeast track parallel to the coast during the next 24 hours and slowly weaken.

Emergency Services Minister Neil Roberts said staff from across all of his department's divisions had been deployed along the central coast over the weekend.

"The key to an efficient and effective response in a natural disaster is to be well-prepared," Mr Roberts said.

"Our deployment of additional resources will ensure we respond to the communities' needs as quickly as possible.

"More than 40 additional Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) personnel from the Queensland Fire and Rescue Service (QFRS) have been deployed to Rockhampton, with another eight swift water rescue personnel moving from Airlie Beach and Proserpine to Rockhampton today.
Image by Bureau of Meteorology at 4am on Monday March 9, 2009.

"Twenty QFRS Incident Management Team (IMT) members are also on standby, with another 20 to be sourced from the Brisbane area to deploy if necessary.

"Also based in Rockhampton are two Queensland Ambulance Service Special Operations Response Teams (SORT)."

Mr Roberts said a 30-strong strike team of State Emergency Service volunteers from Townsville were also being deployed south to bolster volunteer numbers.

Fourteen Emergency Management Queensland (EMQ) staff from the South Eastern and South Western Regions were yesterday deployed to Mackay, Rockhampton, Maryborough and Hervey Bay.

Additional supplies of equipment have also been transported to Central Queensland, including 1,900 tarps and 6,000 sandbags. In addition, 500 metres of flood barrier equipment and two floodbo ats will arrive in Rockhampton this afternoon.

"These additional resources will be deployed to the communities that most need them as the cyclone threat continues to move south," Mr Roberts said.

Over the next 48 hours, damaging wind gusts and flash flooding due to large seas, high tides and heavy rain is possible in coastal areas between Mackay and Tewantin.

Evacuations are now underway on Heron and Lady Elliott islands, with only a skeleton staff to remain on these islands. Up to 1,000 campers, and another 2,000 residents and resort guests, will be evacuated from Fraser Island by barge to Rainbow Beach by this afternoon.

Emergency services will be working closely with the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) and local authorities in the towns of 1770 and Yeppoon, as well as across the Fraser Coast, over the next 24 hours to monitor weather conditions.

EMQ Executive Director Frank Pagano said it was important that residents were adequately pre pared for severe weather conditions over the next few days.

"One of the most valuable items you can have as a cyclone approaches is a battery-operated radio. This will keep you up-to-date with weather conditions and what action you may need to take," Mr Pagano said.

He added that people should put together an emergency kit. This should contain a first aid kit, torch, spare batteries, matches, waterproof bags, necessary medication, spare clothing, valuables, canned food and water supplies. A list of emergency numbers and important documentation should also be placed in your emergency kit.

Mr Pagano said that Tropical Cyclone Hamish had the potential to produce substantial rain and storm surges over the next few days and urged people to remain alert to rapidly changing weather conditions.

"A storm surge is a rise above the normal water level along a shore resulting from strong onshore winds and reduced atmospheric pressure. And in some cases, th is could be a number of metres depending on cyclone conditions," Mr Pagano said.

"The Department of Emergency Services will be working closely with the Bureau of Meteorology to constantly assess the risk of storm surges along the coast as Tropical Cyclone Hamish moves south. If necessary, people living in at-risk areas will be evacuated.

"People are urged to limit their travel into the cyclone watch and warning areas over the next few days, and also be aware of the dangers of flash flooding in drains, creeks and causeways after heavy rain and stay away from these areas," he said.

For assistance from the SES contact 132 500. For life-threatening emergencies dial triple zero (000).

For more information on how to prepare for a cyclone the public are urged to visit www.disaster.qld.gov.au and for the latest weather reports visit the Bureau of Meteorology website at www.bom.gov.au.

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