Sydney (AFP) May 9, 2011
The oil-rich emirate of Abu Dhabi Monday donated US$32 million dollars to Queensland to help protect the Australian state from cyclones in the wake of a monster storm that hit in February.
Yasi, the most powerful cyclone to hit Australia in a century, packed winds of 290 kilometres (181 miles) per hour when it raced into Queensland, smashing buildings and trees and bringing power lines crashing to the ground.
The United Arab Emirates Minister of State Reem Al-Hashimy said she had watched television coverage of the destruction caused by Yasi and the weeks of unprecedented flooding which preceded the violent storm.
"What has struck me particularly is the strength and resilience of the Queensland people," she said, adding that the images of Australians reaching out to their fellow countrymen was heartwarming.
"We wish to support your can-do attitude, your ability to pick yourselves up and get on with it," she told told reporters in Brisbane.
Al Hashemi was in Australia as part of a delegation from the Gulf touring Queensland as part of a government plan to boost trade and investment in the wake of the natural disasters.
Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said her government would match the donation to build 10 shelters which will each protect more than 500 people from the ferocious winds, flying debris and storm surges created by the worst cyclones.
The government came under pressure after Yasi for taking too long to build cyclone shelters promised after Cyclone Larry ravaged Innisfail in 2006.
Sites for the shelters, which will be used as multi-purpose facilities all year round, have not yet been chosen but Bligh said the new unsolicited money meant construction could begin later this year.
"We will build these shelters as quickly as we can," she said.
"This donation from Abu Dhabi is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us to do something in two years that might have otherwise taken 20 years."
Yasi roared into the Australian coast at Mission Beach, between the towns of Innisfail and Cardwell, which lie in a heavily populated agricultural and tourist region near the Great Barrier Reef in early February.
The storm, which had an eye measuring 35 kilometres in width, caused massive destruction, but the winds and rains caused no deaths or injuries.
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