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Power, water shortages as Cyclone Ita stalks Australia

Thousands of homes were without power and residents of worst-hit Cooktown were warned clean water was about to run out as cyclone Ita rolled along Australia's Barrier Reef coast Sunday. Downgraded from a category four to a category one storm after making landfall late Friday, Ita continued to bring heavy weather as it tracked along the coast, with roads, power and water cut and warnings of flash flooding from torrential rain.

Australia avoids worst of Cyclone Ita but more wind, rain due

PERTH, Australia (Reuters) - Australia's northeast escaped the worst of a tropical cyclone that was expected to wreak havoc and bring dangerous storm tides after it weakened and was downgraded on Saturday. There were no reports of injuries and while power was cut to some communities and buildings sustained some damage, there were no reports of major damage to infrastructure, authorities said. "I am greatly relieved that at this time we've had no reports of either death or injury," Queensland Premier Campbell Newman said.

Cyclone batters Australia's Great Barrier Reef coast

Australia's Barrier Reef coast was Saturday taking a battering from a tropical cyclone which knocked out power and phones, but no deaths or major devastation had been reported. Queensland state Premier Campbell Newman said the focus was now on assessing how quickly electricity and communications could be restored. Heavy rain and gales from tropical cyclone Ita continued to lash the far north. But the storm was downgraded from the strongest category five before it made landfall Friday night to two Saturday morning.

Powerful cyclone hits Australia

A cyclone packing winds of up to 230 kilometres (140 miles) an hour hit northern Australia late Friday before weakening to a category two storm as it moved down the coast. Tens of thousands of people hunkered down as warnings of severe gales, flash flooding and storm tides continued through the night. "Destructive winds with gusts to 140 kilometres per hour are possible between Cape Melville and Cape Tribulation for a period this morning," the Bureau of Meteorology said.

Australia's far north battens down for major cyclone

Australia's sparsely populated northern tip was on Thursday preparing for the largest cyclone to hit the area since Cyclone Yasi smashed into Queensland in 2011, ripping homes from their foundations and devastating swathes of farmland. Tropical Cyclone Ita, a category-four storm on a scale in which five is the highest, is packing winds of 260 kilometres (162 miles) per hour and is set to lash the Cape York region late Friday. Queensland's Premier Campbell Newman, who cut short a visit to Asia to deal with the storm, said 9,000 people could be affected.

Powerful cyclone closes in on Australia's northeast, evacuations ordered

By James Regan SYDNEY (Reuters) - Tourists and coastal residents were evacuating parts of the Great Barrier Reef on Thursday as a powerful cyclone intensified in the Coral Sea and made its way towards Australia's northeast. Cyclone Ita is forecast to make landfall on Friday north of the tropical city of Cairns, bringing with it the possibility of widespread flooding and damage, emergency officials said.

Britain says minded to introduce mandatory plain cigarette packaging

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain said on Thursday it was minded to force tobacco firms to sell cigarettes in plain standardized packaging and would hold a short consultation on the issue before taking a final decision. Jane Ellison, a minister in Britain's Department of Health, cited what she called a "compelling" review commissioned by the government which she said had shown plain packaging would improve public health and cut the number of child smokers.

At edge of Malaysia Airlines search, questions of security and diplomacy

By Matt Siegel and Jane Wardell PERTH/SYDNEY, Australia (Reuters) - The pot-bellied silhouette of a Chinese Il-76 military transport plane appeared in the sky over Perth International Airport just as the U.S. naval officer was explaining how he guards his cutting-edge surveillance plane.

Vietnam veteran is Queen's new envoy in Australia

Former military chief Peter Cosgrove became Australia's governor-general Friday, vowing to uphold the values of equity and compassion as British Queen Elizabeth II's representative in the country. Cosgrove, now Sir Peter after Prime Minister Tony Abbott this week revived the honours system, said he would be bipartisan and attend to matters which sat within Australian values. "Values that respect, and uphold equity, compassion, generosity, tolerance and energetic ambition," he said.

Vietnam veteran is Queen's new envoy in Australia

Former military chief Peter Cosgrove became Australia's governor-general Friday, vowing to uphold the values of equity and compassion as British Queen Elizabeth II's representative in the country. Cosgrove, now Sir Peter after Prime Minister Tony Abbott this week revived the honours system, said he would be bipartisan and attend to matters which sat within Australian values. "Values that respect, and uphold equity, compassion, generosity, tolerance and energetic ambition," he said.
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