Cyclone Ului leaves destruction in its wake

SYDNEY: Australia was Monday mopping up the "trail of devastation" left by Cyclone Ului, which ripped trees from the ground, skittled boats and smashed homes after hitting Queensland's coast.

Thousands of properties remained without power while some schools were closed near the Great Barrier Reef tourist town of Airlie Beach where the tropical storm made landfall early on Sunday, officials said.

"This cyclone has left a trail of devastation in its wake," Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said.

"Thankfully it did not have the catastrophic effects that we've seen in other cyclones.

In 2006, tropical Cyclone Larry hit the Queensland town of Innisfail, causing millions of dollars in damage to homes, infrastructure and crops as winds gusted at up to 240 kilometres (150 miles) per hour.

Officials were still assessing the damage caused by Ului, which brought winds of up to 200 kilometres per hour at its peak and heavy rain and flooding to the Whitsunday and Mackay regions.

Twenty-two schools were closed Monday as emergency officials attempted to clear roads, remove fallen trees and restore power.

"A number of schools across the region will not be able to be open because ... there's debris covering school entrances and it's not safe for children," Bligh said, adding other schools had no water supplies.

Despite the damage, residents were thankful Ului did not bring the widespread destruction wrought by Cyclone Larry, which wiped out the nation's banana crop in 2006, costing thousands of jobs.

"It hasn't been too bad. If you were putting in an order for one (a cyclone), this would be it," Mike Brunker, the mayor Whitsunday, said.

The government said it will make cash payments available to those affected by the cyclone, which it said had caused significant damage to infrastructure and delivered large amounts of rain and flash flooding.