Howling winds, heavy rain and huge seas pounded Australia’s northeast on Tuesday, damaging homes, wrecking jetties and cutting power to thousands of people as Tropical Cyclone Debbie tore through Queensland state’s far north.
Cyclone Debbie tore through Queensland causing flooding and bringing down power lines as winds reached more than 160mph at tourist resorts along the world-famous Great Barrier Reef.The storm has left a path of destruction in its wake, with trees and power lines down.
It is the most powerful storm to hit the region since Severe Tropical Cyclone Yasi struck northern Queensland on February 3, 2011.
The storm made landfall at Airlie Beach, north of Proserpine.
No injuries had been reported so far but the storm was traveling southwest so slowly that weather forecasters said cyclone conditions could persist for as long as 24 hours.
Authorities had urged thousands of people in low-lying areas to flee their homes on Monday, in what would be the biggest evacuation seen in Australia since Cyclone Tracy devastated the northern city of Darwin on Christmas Day, 1974.
Great Barrier Reef islands popular with foreign tourists were battered by the category four storm which slammed into the coast of Queensland state with destructive wind gusts of up to 270 kph (167 miles) near its broad core.
Gusts will barely reach 80km/h by 1800GMT on Tuesday. However, as the system continues to track slowly inland, it is staggering along at around 9km/h, it will continue to dump vast amounts of rainfall.
MacKay had 109mm of rain on Monday following on from 51mm on Sunday. Meanwhile, Hamilton Island and Proserpine had 106mm and 138mm in the 24 hours up to 0000GMT Tuesday.
As Cyclone Debbie crawls across central and southeastern parts of Queensland, it is dropping up to 200mm of rain a day in places. Some areas could see as much as 500mm to 600mm of rain by the time the system clears through.
Cyclone Debbie, which is expected to diminish into a tropical low on Wednesday, is expected to track south-west but is still moving extremely slowly and will bring heavy rains to inland Queensland, as well as probable floods.
About 130mm of rain is expected over the next few days. The remnants of Tropical Cyclone Debbie should finally clear the gold coast late on Friday going into Saturday morning.
“At first light tomorrow, we’ll be sending people in to do a rapid assessment of the damage,” said Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, with flash flooding and still powerful winds making it hard to do this at night.“Everyone is going to be in shock tomorrow, just to see the full impact of this cyclone. I’m bracing myself for it.”
Palaszczuk, who called the storm a “monster”, said at least 45,000 homes were without power with communications down in many areas and hundreds of schools and childcare centres closed.
Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull told parliament that conditions in the region were “deteriorating rapidly”.
Mr Turbull said: “The federal and Queensland governments have prepared well for the onset of this cyclone. We have activated the disaster response plan.”
Ports at Abbot Point, Mackay and Hay Point were shut, Townsville airport was closed and airlines Qantas, Jetstar, Rex and Virgin Australia canceled several flights to and from the region.
Debbie has officially been declared a catastrophe by the Insurance Council of Australia, allowing them to prioritise claims from the disaster.
The federal government said it was on standby to help with the clean-up, with soldiers, helicopters and planes ready to mobilise.