Torrential rain hampered relief efforts today after a powerful cyclone wreaked havoc in northeast Australia, with floods sparking emergency rescues as fed-up tourists wait to be evacuated from resort islands.
Cyclone Debbie has pummelled Queensland state since crashing ashore as category four storm on Tuesday between Bowen and Airlie Beach, ripping up trees, washing boats onto land and causing widespread damage.
It has been downgraded to a tropical low as it tracks southeast, but continues to pack damaging wind gusts and dump huge amounts of rain, with Brisbane now in the firing line.
Meteorologists forecast the city would be soaked by a month’s worth of rain in a single day, with the popular Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast areas also in for a drenching before the system moves offshore on Friday.
“We have a very, very large state here and this is a very, very big weather system that’s going to wreak havoc all the way down the coast,” Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said.
Emergency service crews rescued dozens of people overnight and early Thursday from floodwaters west of Mackay, with some plucked from roofs and tops of cars.
“Significant rainfall in Mackay — sudden increase in calls for service. A number of rescues undertaken & still being undertaken,” Queensland police tweeted. Despite this, no deaths have been reported with only one significant injury — a man crushed by a collapsing wall.
Before the cyclone hit, thousands of people moved to higher ground, out of the area or to safe refuges.
The wild weather has made the clean-up difficult as crews battle horrendous conditions to reach isolated communities and restore power.
Many roads remain flooded and towns cut off with hundreds of schools closed.
Great Barrier Reef islands were among the worst hit. Tourists and residents have been stranded for days on devastated Hamilton and Daydream islands, battered by terrifying winds of more than 260 kmh at the height of the tempest.
They were due to be evacuated today by plane or ferry after struggling with no power and toilets not flushing as water ran low.