CYCLONE SLAMS AUSSIE COAST
Hundreds of schools closed, more than 50,000 households without power
APOWERFUL cyclone slammed into Australia’s tropical northeast coast yesterday, tearing down fences, snapping trees and knocking out power to tens of thousands of houses, officials said.
The destructive eyewall of Cyclone Debbie, a Category 4 storm packing winds of up to 260kph, made landfall near Airlie Beach, a resort town in Queensland state, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology said.
The town is a jumping-off point for the Whitsunday Islands, a popular tourist destination that has been pummelled by fierce winds that damaged roofs and knocked down palm trees.
One man was injured after a wall collapsed in Proserpine, a town south of Airlie Beach, Queensland police commissioner Ian Stewart said. The man was taken to a hospital, and his condition was not immediately known.
Officials warned that the slowmoving storm was likely to hover over the region for hours before weakening as it moved inland.
Stewart said the cyclone’s glacial pace had created a “battering ram effect,” with some areas enduring the howling winds and drenching rains for a punishingly long time.
Communities along more than 300km of coastline were expected to be impacted, he said.
“I suspect before the day is out, we will see a lot of damage in the cyclone’s path,” Stewart said.
John Collins, a member of the Whitsundays government council, was sheltering from the storm with his wife and four daughters inside their house in Proserpine.
He could see that four of his neighbours’ sheds had been destroyed and every house within eyesight, including his own, had lost their fences. At least four trees had been smashed to pieces.
“It sounds like you got a jumbo jet sitting on the roof of your house. It really is so loud. It’s incredible,” Collins said.
Collins’ wife and two of their daughters were so scared that they were hiding under blankets.
One of his other daughters, whom he described as “a real weather nerd”, was enthralled with the storm and was diligently listening to the radio for updates.
Hundreds of schools were closed yesterday and more than 50,000 households were without power.
“Conditions have deteriorated rapidly,” Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said in Parliament.
“Take care and stay safe. Be prepared to shelter in place until Wednesday.”
Whitsundays Regional Council Mayor Andrew Willcox said authorities had received 98 requests for help. AP
Strong winds and rain lashing Airlie Beach in Queensland yesterday.