Hun­dreds of schools closed, more than 50,000 house­holds with­out power

New Straits Times - - World -

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.

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