By Evan Schwarten
A storm surge from the category 5 cyclone virtually destroyed the town’s main street, washing away sections of road and leaving a massive trail of sand and debris.
The nearby Port Hinchinbrook marina was decimated.
About 60 boats litter the foreshore and nearby streets.
Many houses were destroyed and a local church lost its walls and roof.
Only the floor and the pews remained.
Touring the disaster zone late on Thursday with federal Treasurer Wayne Swan, Ms Bligh described the situation as devastating.
“It’s a lovely seaside village and right now it looks like a war zone,” Ms Bligh said.
She could not say how long it would take but vowed to rebuild the town.
“Parts of this town are not recognisable right now but we can fix it.”
Emergency crews are moving from house to house, marking them as habitable – or not.
Some dwellings do not need to be deemed unliveable – they’re absolutely wrecked.
The town is covered in mud from the storm surge, huge trees lie across the Bruce Highway which passes along the thin strip of land between ocean and rain forest mountains.
With damage reports continuing to come in, it appears that Cardwell is the epicentre of the damage caused by Cyclone Yasi when, as a Category 5 system, it slammed into the coast about midnight (AEST) on Wednesday.
Nearby, the up-market tourist haven of Port Hinchinbrook is a wreck.
Floating walkways lie twisted amongst the other wreckage.
There is also extensive damage to dwellings.
Fisherman Stephen Hughes is the owner of one of only four vessels which appear to have survived the storm surge in Port Hinchinbrook.
Mr Hughes described the scene as “catastrophic”.
“There’s got to be $20 million to $30 million worth of ships wrecked here,” he said.