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US-sized Cyclone Yasi could cost Australia more than $2 billion

Cyclone Yasi flattened properties, overturned luxury yachts, and ripped up plantations. Australia's climate change adviser warns of more such storms to come.

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Shop owner Richard Doran, (l.) talks with a man running a backhoe in Cardwell, Australia, on Friday, after Cyclone Yasi brought heavy rain and howling winds gusting to 186 mph. The storm, which hit in the early hours of Thursday, was among the most powerful ever to strike Australia, terrifying thousands of residents and causing widespread damage.

Rick Rycroft/AP

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As the disaster-ravaged state of Queensland dusts itself off from Cyclone Yasi, economists are warning that Australia’s latest tussle with nature could wipe more than $2 billion off the country’s gross domestic product. Food prices and insurance premiums are expected to rise, while a vital tourism and agricultural area has been decimated.

Still, considering Yasi was a category five cyclone only a little smaller than the United States, analysts are saying Australia should consider itself lucky.

“It certainly could have been a lot worse,” says Luke Mathews, a commodity analyst with the Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

Yasi flattened properties, overturned luxury yachts, and ripped up plantations along a 125-mile-stretch of Queensland’s picturesque coast when it came ashore with winds of more than 125 mph late Wednesday night. On Thursday some 130,000 properties remained without electricity as Australia deployed 4,000 soldiers to help with the recovery effort. At least one person is known to have died in the cyclone, asphyxiated by fumes from a generator operating in a small room.

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