AUSTRALIA has ordered the evacuation of people from low-lying areas in coastal Queensland as the state prepares itself for the worst cyclone in years, with destructive winds and rain forecast.
According to the Guardian, authorities have also order the closure of schools, ports and airports, and thousands of military and emergency services personnel are on alert in anticipation of the “very destructive core” of Cyclone Debbie.
The storm is forecast to hit Queensland’s northeast coast early on Tuesday with the Bureau of Meteorology warning that Debbie is the worst cyclone to hit the state since 2011, forecasting wind gusts of up to 260km/h and flash flooding.
“I think you could say that Debbie’s probably the most significant tropical cyclone since Yasi that we’ve had to deal with in Queensland,” Bureau of Meteorology Queensland regional director Bruce Gunn told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).
“Not so much because of its intensity, we’re only predicting a category four at landfall, but mostly because of its size and extent.”
Yasi saw homes in northern Queensland ripped from their foundations and crops devastated.
Authorities have been preparing for days for the landing of Debbie, a potential natural disaster that is already feared may require an extended rebuilding period.
The Guardian reported that State disaster coordinator Michael Gollschewski warned on Sunday that “tomorrow will be too late” to prepare.
The Australian defence force also deployed a taskforce to “save human life, alleviate human suffering and prevent loss or damage to property” in the cyclone’s wake.
Residents have been preparing sand bags, securing their belongings and stocking up on emergency supplies, leaving many supermarkets empty.
— Amelia (@sun_doll) March 24, 2017
Townsville residents Tom and Margaret Greaney told ABC they had been through several cyclones, dating back to 1956.
“I haven’t been scared of them, I’ve been wary of them,” Greaney said.
The couple were busy moving furniture and other possessions that might blow away in the cyclonic wind gusts.
“Be prepared for anything in a cyclone, especially flying debris because it can hit anywhere and it can cause a lot of damage,” he said.
The area expected to be worst hit is a major tourist destination for Queensland and includes the famous Whitsunday beach.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said authorities were in constant contact with holiday resorts in the Whitsunday islands, and that in several places people were choosing to stay put.
The Mayor of Townsville, a town located on the mainland, has warned residents not to be complacent.
“Over the next few days we have to keep monitoring it and we have to assume the worst,” Jenny Hill said, “ which is why we’re asking people to prepare themselves now in case we require them to evacuate.”