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Australia dodges cyclone 'bullet', but worse feared


A cyclone has ripped off roofs and downed trees and powerlines in flood-battered eastern Australia, but a more powerful storm could wreak greater havoc later this week, officials warned Monday.

Tropical Cyclone Anthony, packing winds of up to 150 kilometres (90 miles) an hour, hit the coast of Queensland state late Sunday, uprooting trees and hammering houses but sparing the stricken state from any major damage.

"There's a lot of trees down and that sort of thing, (in) the harbour itself, there's a few boats with torn canopies and a bit of debris around, but not too bad at all," fisherman Terry Much said after Anthony hit the town of Bowen.

Parts of Bowen, which lies about 1,100 kilometres north of the state capital Brisbane, were left without power after the storm the coast before being downgraded to a tropical low as it moved inland.

"We've had a couple of loose sheets of iron on roofs and reports of a few windows on pubs that went out," said Mike Brunker, mayor of Whitsunday, which is just south of Bowen.

"But as far as that sort of damage, we've dodged a bullet, I think," he told public broadcaster ABC.

But as residents of the state that has been hit by rolling floods since December breathed a sigh of relief, officials warned that Cyclone Yasi, which is forming over the Coral Sea, posed a major threat to Queensland.

"It does certainly look like it's going to develop into a more significant system than (Cyclone) Anthony over the next few days," said Bureau of Meteorology spokesman Rick Threlfall.

"It's got a lot of water to come across and therefore can pick up a lot of energy from that water, so it does look like good conditions for the development of this system."

Yasi was Monday classified as a category one -- or low intensity -- cyclone, but is expected to build up its power as it moves westwards towards Queensland where it is tipped to hit late Wednesday or early Thursday.

"It's pretty difficult to tie down exactly where at this stage, but it's just something we'll have to sort of develop over the next few days," said Threlfall.

Scores of Queensland towns have been devastated and more than 30 people killed by flooding in recent weeks that caused Australia's most expensive natural disaster on record.