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Yasi caused severe damage to Great Barrier Reef

Melbourne: The cyclone Yasi that had hit parts of Queensland last month has caused severe damage to parts of Great Barrier Reef, the world`s largest reef system, scientists have said.

They have claimed that about 13 per cent of the reef, from Cairns to Townsville, came under threat from Yasi, a category five storm that crossed the Queensland coast near Mission Beach on February 2.

Marine specialists from Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) and Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service today released their initial assessments and found Yasi affected about 300 km of the 2,400 km long reef, leaving varying degrees of damage.

"The good news is that the damage to these reefs has been patchy," GBRMPA`s assessment coordinator Paul Marshall said, adding that the areas that faced wind gusts of up to 285kph were the most seriously damaged. Coral has been broken, and torn from the reef and tossed around.

"Branching corals have suffered the most, with the remnants being strewn across the seabed floor, while large plate corals have been snapped off and dumped into deeper water. Some corals that were hundreds of years old were tipped on their sides," he said.

However, the reefs around major tourism hubs had escaped Yasi`s wrath, Marshall said.

"Cyclone Yasi tracked between the main tourism sites in Cairns, Port Douglas and the Whitsundays and we were very pleased to find that those areas are still healthy and thriving with marine life," he said.

"It is important to remember while parts of the reef in the path of the cyclone have been damaged, most of the Great Barrier Reef remains unaffected," Marshall added.

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