CY­CLONE LEAVES AUSSIE TOWNS LIKE A ‘WAR ZONE’

Storm leaves trail of devastation along Aus­tralia’s coastal ar­eas

New Straits Times - - News -

TOWNS were cut off and with­out power in north­ern Aus­tralia yes­ter­day af­ter be­ing pum­melled by a pow­er­ful cy­clone that washed bat­tered yachts ashore and ripped roofs off houses in scenes com­pared to “a war zone”.

The cat­e­gory four storm slammed into the coast of Queens­land state be­tween Bowen and Air­lie Beach on Tues­day af­ter­noon, pack­ing de­struc­tive winds and dev­as­tat­ing some of the re­gion’s tourist hotspots.

It has since been down­graded to a trop­i­cal low, but the Bureau of Me­te­o­rol­ogy still warned of dam­ag­ing wind gusts with “in­tense” rain, spark­ing flood fears.

“This rain­fall will likely lead to ma­jor river flood­ing over a broad area this week,” it said.

Some ar­eas had been drenched in 1,000ml of rain in just 48 hours — the equiv­a­lent of half a year’s worth, ac­cord­ing to the weather bureau.

Roads to the towns of Bowen, Air­lie Beach and Proser­pine were in­ac­ces­si­ble, with more than 60,000 homes with­out power and com­mu­ni­ca­tions down in many ar­eas.

Po­lice said boats would be used to reach worst-hit coastal ar­eas.

Queens­land Premier An­nasta­cia Palaszczuk said it was early days for dam­age as­sess­ments and she was wor­ried peo­ple might be in­jured but had been un­able to con­tact emer­gency ser­vices.

“We don’t know how many peo­ple are in­jured and the sta­tus of their homes. What we are hear­ing is that there are some struc­tural dam­age in places such as Proser­pine,” she said.

On a brighter note, a baby girl was born at an am­bu­lance sta­tion on the Whit­sun­day Is­lands as the storm raged out­side.

“Out of all of this, to see a lit­tle mir­a­cle, I think, it brings a smile to a lot of faces,” said Palaszczuk.

So far, there have been no re­ports of deaths from Cy­clone Deb­bie. A man was badly in­jured when a wall col­lapsed on him on Tues­day.

Great Bar­rier Reef is­lands, pop­u­lar with for­eign tourists, were among the worst hit.

Day­dream Is­land Re­sort said it bore the brunt of the storm and sus­tained sig­nif­i­cant dam­age, in­clud­ing to its jetty and ac­com­mo­da­tion wings.

“Con­di­tions were ex­treme with heavy rain­fall and strong wind gusts caus­ing dam­age to the re­sort,” it said in a state­ment, adding that guests had been ac­counted for but it was run­ning out of fresh water.

As day broke, scenes of devastation be­gan to emerge.

Pic­tures posted on so­cial me­dia showed a light plane flipped up­side down, yachts washed ashore, power poles down and trees fallen on houses.

Whit­sun­day Re­gional Coun­cil mayor An­drew Will­cox de­scribed the scene in cy­clone-rav­aged Bowen as “like a war zone”.

“This beau­ti­ful sea­side town is half-wrecked, but we will re­build,” he said.

In the min­ing town of Collinsville, roofs were re­ported ripped off houses from a storm res­i­dents called emo­tion­ally drain­ing, with winds rag­ing for hours.

“I’m shat­tered emo­tion­ally and phys­i­cally. I’ve gone through the worst 24 hours I’ve ex­pe­ri­enced in my 53 years,” a lo­cal, iden­ti­fied only as Julie, told the Aus­tralian Broad­cast­ing Cor­po­ra­tion.

Wind gusts of up to 270kph were re­ported near Deb­bie’s broad core.

Emer­gency crews ven­tured out at first light to bet­ter as­sess the dam­age, with the fed­eral gov­ern­ment hav­ing sol­diers, he­li­copters and planes on standby to help.

Prime Min­is­ter Mal­colm Turn­bull said he had “put in place the big­gest pre-de­ploy­ment of the Aus­tralian De­fence Force in ad­vance of a nat­u­ral dis­as­ter”.

Hav­ing lived through cy­clones be­fore, many were pre­pared and boarded up homes af­ter warn­ings to ex­pect the worst weather in the state since Cy­clone Yasi in 2011, which ripped houses from their foun­da­tions and dev­as­tated crops.

Yasi, which struck less pop­u­lated ar­eas, caused dam­age es­ti­mated at A$1.4 bil­lion (RM4.7 bil­lion).

Deb­bie has of­fi­cially been de­clared a catas­tro­phe by the In­sur­ance Coun­cil of Aus­tralia, al­low­ing claims from the dis­as­ter to be pri­ori­tised.

AGENCY PIX

A plane flipped by strong wind­sat an air­port in the town of Bowen, south of the north­ern city of Townsville, yes­ter­day.

A res­i­dent walk­ing past a yacht that was washed ashore in the north­ern Queens­land town of Air­lie Beach.

Emer­gency re­lief sup­plies and equip­ment for those af­fected by the storm be­ing loaded onto the Royal Aus­tralian Navy ship HMAS ‘Choules’ at the Port of Bris­bane yes­ter­day.

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