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A CYCLONE described as a "monster, killer storm" is bearing down on Cairns, with communities far to the north, south and west of the northern Queensland tourist centre also braced for its fury.
The latest modelling suggests Cyclone Yasi is on track to hit Cairns about 1am (AEST) on Thursday as a highly destructive category four storm with winds above 250km/h.
In Cairns alone, about 29,000 people are on notice of mandatory evacuation. Six evacuation centres have been set up in and around the city to accommodate people who have nowhere to go.
The Australian Defence Force has been called in to evacuate hundreds of patients from two Cairns hospitals.
And residents in low-lying areas have been warned their homes could be damaged with a storm surge of up to two metres expected in parts of Cairns, including the CBD.