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Cyclone Yasi may cost Australia $5 billion: group

by Staff Writers
Paris (AFP) Feb 4, 2011
Cyclone Yasi may have cost Australia up to $5 billion in damages after ripping through the country's northeast, destroying towns and key crops, catastrophe modeller EQECAT estimated Friday.

Damages could cost Australia, still recovering from unprecedented floods, $3-$5 billion (2.2-3.7 billion euros), said the firm, which is heavily relied on by the insurance industry.

Yasi hit the Australian coast Wednesday at Mission Beach, between the cities of Innisfail and Cardwell, which lie in a heavily populated agricultural and tourist region near the world famous Great Barrier Reef.

The most powerful cyclone to hit Australia in a century, Yasi packed winds of 290 kilometres (181 miles) per hour across a front that was hundreds of kilometres wide, with a seething eye measuring about 35 kilometres in width.

It was later downgraded to a category two storm.

A separate modelling firm, AIR, put the estimate much lower at $340 million to $1.49 billion (250 million to 1.1 billion euros).

EQECAT and AIR use historical data and complex mathematical formula to measure the potential impact of natural disasters. Major insurance companies use their estimates to reduce their exposure to the most expensive risk.

Yasi destroyed 20 percent of Australia's sugar cane production and 85 percent of banana supplies that were harvested in Queensland, the hardest hit region.

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