Race to restore phones and power in Ita’s wake

Queensland Premier Campbell Newman says his government is focused on assessing how fast power and phone lines can be reconnected as strong gales and heavy rain from tropical cyclone Ita continue to lash the state’s far north.

Roofs were ripped from at least two homes and a pub in Cooktown as Ita’s fierce winds tore through the coastal community overnight on Friday.

Large trees have been uprooted and branches, fence posts and snapped powerlines were strewn across roads.

Ita was a category four cyclone as it crossed the coast near Cape Flattery about 9pm on Friday, but has been downgraded to a category two as it tracks south across the state.

Mr Newman said there was the potential for extensive damage.

“There will be a lot of damage potentially to people’s property,” he said on ABC radio on Saturday.

“We’ve really got to this morning assess how swiftly we can get the power and telecommunications back on in these communities. Both Hopevale and Cooktown lost power last night.”

He said the storm could have destroyed a banana plantation at Hopevale.

“I’m very conscious of a very important banana plantation to the Aboriginal community at Hopevale and I just really hope that hasn’t been completely wiped out,” Mr Campbell said.

Cyclone warnings are current for coastal areas from Cape Melville to Cardwell, including Cooktown, Port Douglas and Cairns, and extending inland to areas including Mareeba and Chillagoe.

Authorities had been warning Ita could be the worst cyclone to hit Queensland since Yasi three years ago.

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