Cyclone Debbie: More than 3,500 evacuate in Queensland, Australia

A satellite image of Cyclone Debbie off the Australian coastImage copyright
Bureau of Meteorology

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Cyclone Debbie is expected to strengthen into a Category 4

More than 3,500 Australian residents have been evacuated as a cyclone carrying winds up to 240km/h (150 mph) moves towards the Queensland coast.

Cyclone Debbie is expected to intensify into a Category 4 system before it arrives early on Tuesday local time.

Some people have refused to leave despite warnings the destructive core could be as wide as 100km (62 miles).

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the storm would rival the devastating Cyclone Yasi in 2011.

“This window of opportunity to leave is drastically closing,” she told a press conference on Monday.

“I am just pleading to everyone, please, listen to authorities. I do, you must as well. This is about your safety, it is about the safety of your family and the safety of your children.”

A state on edge

The cyclone is expected to make landfall sometime after 07:00 on Tuesday (20:00 GMT Monday) anywhere in a 265km zone from Townsville to Proserpine.

“That is the uncertainty of cyclones,” said Bureau of Meteorology regional director Bruce Gunn.

Authorities warned the cyclone could make landfall at high tide, bringing waves up to 8m and flooding for low-lying areas.

The Whitsunday holiday islands were already being buffeted by 100km/h winds, he said.

Police Commissioner Ian Stewart said the weather contributed to the death of a woman, believed to involve a tourist, in a car crash.

Queensland authorities have closed 102 schools, 81 early childhood education centres and two ports.

All flights have been cancelled at Townsville Airport and Mackay Airport.

Ms Palaszczuk said a further 2,000 residents on Monday were expected to join thousands of people who had already been evacuated from the affected area.

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Getty Images

Image caption

Queensland is preparing for a destructive cyclone

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

Supermarket shelves are nearly empty as people prepare for the cyclone

Mr Stewart warned that emergency crews would not provide help during the storm’s peak.

“[It] will get to an extent where all emergency services will not be able to respond to calls for assistance, because obviously, we have got to maintain the safety of our staff,” he said.

Army ready to assist

Ms Palaszczuk said residents should be prepared for power outages.

“Now is the time to charge your phone,” she said.

“These winds are going to be severe and we are going to see structural damage.”

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the Australian Defence Force would help with the cyclone response.

“Time and time again, Australians show grace under pressure, bravery in the face of danger, and rally without a second thought to help each other,” Mr Turnbull said in parliament.

“These virtues will be on display over the next few days where Australians face the worst that nature can throw at us.”

Cyclone Debbie: More than 3,500 evacuate in Queensland, Australia}