Australian PM to inspect cyclone-ravaged north Queensland

09:55, February 17, 2011      

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Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard will visit cyclone ravaged communities in north Queensland on Thursday to inspect the progress of the recovery effort two weeks after the monster storm hit, according to the Australian Associated Press.

Two weeks ago, Cyclone Yasi ripped through the region, leaving hundreds of people homeless.

Gillard will tour a Tully banana farm damaged in the category five storm and meet with local authorities.

Her visit comes amid criticism of a new federal-state assistance package announced on Wednesday to help cyclone-hit farms and businesses in the north.

The package offers concessional loans, wage assistance and extra clean-up help.

Treasurer Wayne Swan said the measures would help keep banana, sugar and other businesses going while the recovery gathered pace.

But farming and business groups said the package was a disappointment and should be extended to communities further inland from the coast.

The farm lobby group AgForce said the package failed to recognize the extent of the damage Yasi had caused on inland graziers.

Peak horticulture body Growcom said the package should include growers affected by Queensland's devastating January floods, not just coastal farmers hit by Yasi.

Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland spokesman Nick Berhrens said many such businesses, particularly tourism operators, were enduring very tough circumstances without help.

Northern Queensland city Charters Towers Mayor Ben Callcott told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) that graziers in the northern part of the shire were in urgent need of help to clean up their properties but did not qualify.

"The fact is it has been impacted extremely heavily to the tune of millions of dollars and we should be included after the event," Ben Callcott said.

Source: Xinhua

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