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Australian authorities assess damage from the category-four cyclone that hit coast between Airlie Beach and Mackay on Tuesday. Follow all the updates here
We’ll be winding up this blog now but stay tuned to the Guardian homepage for updates. The extent of the damage caused by ex- is becoming clearer, but some places are still cut off from emergency services and communication. Debbie is now a tropical low heading towards central and south-east Queensland, and has brought dangerous flash floods.
There have been some rescues from the tops of cars caught in floodwaters, the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services deputy commissioner Mark Roche has told the ABC. Emergency crews work are now working to rescue three people stranded on the roof of another car submerged in floodwater on Rifle Range Road in Sarina, and a search is under way for the owners and possible passengers of two vehicles found submerged in the Whitsunday region.
From AAP: Damage to properties with asbestos could leave Bowen residents homeless in the aftermath of Tropical Cyclone Debbie.
Flooding remains a threat for much of the region.
Flood Watch: Widespread river level rises above minor expected. Major flooding is likely ex
Lots of roads closed due to related flooding. pic shows Townsville to Hervey Bay. Red pins = closures
Sandbagging stations are being established across Redlands. Enclosed shoes must be worn. Locations:
Queensland’s deputy premier, Jackie Trad, has told Channel Nine the tropical low will be hitting south-east Queensland in the next 24 to 48 hours. She said island communities – Hamilton, Hayman and Daydream – were all isolated with no communication. Police have made it to Hamilton to assist the 4,000 or so people wanting to get out.
Deputy Premier Jackie Trad with the latest information out of Emergency Services Headquarters.
From Australian Associated Press: Queensland police are searching for the owners and possible passengers of two vehicles found submerged in floodwaters in the cyclone-hit Whitsunday region. At least one of the cars went under on the Bruce Highway near Proserpine and was found with its windows down on Wednesday. The police commissioner, Ian Stewart, said officers were retracing the steps of those who owned the vehicles to find out if they were safe.
The Queensland premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, is on the ground in Bowen, where she just told media that roofs, fences, trees and power lines are down, but the SES is on the ground and people are already cleaning up. “We’re going down to Proserpine next, where we expect there to be some more widespread damage,” she said. “It would have been horrific, and thankfully there has been no loss of life.”
“It is still too soon to know just how severe the impacts of Severe Tropical Cyclone Debbie are – this will take some days, or even weeks,” says Richard Thornton, chief executive of the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre. We cannot prevent cyclones such as Debbie, but what Australia can do as a country is improve our mitigation across all natural hazards. But what we do know is that the cost of the response, and importantly, recovery, will be high, and not just in monetary terms. We need to focus on better building and rebuilding of homes, and ensuring that existing houses have simple and cost-effective mitigation measures. We have no national coastal strategy despite over 25 national inquires/reports recommending that we do. We have no plan to minimise the impacts of extreme events and climate change on coastal communities despite a comprehensive parliamentary inquiry recommending that we do.
On Cyclone Debbie’s implications for the Great Barrier Reef, the coral scientist Terry Hughes has pointed out there is no silver lining. There are concerns that a roughly 100km stretch of the reef will have been damaged in Debbie’s wake.
Despite warnings from police and other authorities, there have been instances of looting, . It reports a Whitsunday restaurant, Banjo’s, was unscathed by the cyclone but looters allegedly broke in and stole thousands of dollars worth of alcohol, cash and a safe. They also allegedly destroyed security cameras. The chef, Damien Rogers, said he had made the discovery about 6am this morning.
Detail has been scant about Collinsville, the inland mining town struck by its first category-two cyclone last night, given that the town has been cut off by floods and phone and power outages. But Mike Brunker, the Whitsunday regional councillor who is originally from the town, said Debbie would have come as a shock and he had been told of widespread roof damage.
This is Helen Davidson here, taking over from Christopher Knaus for the afternoon. Teams from James Cook University are preparing to go into affected areas to begin assessing how buildings held up during the cyclone.
The extent of the damage caused by Cyclone Debbie is becoming clearer today, although authorities warn they still have not contacted some of the region’s cut-off communities. Here’s what we know so far:
An Airlie Beach resident, Juliane Kasiske, has spoken to the ABC about her lucky escape from Cyclone Debbie. She was sheltering in her bedroom but was forced to flee to her neighbour’s home as the winds worsened.
Bowen, Airlie Beach and Proserpine cut off; BOM says winds still strong
The State Emergency Service has now received more than 1,000 requests for help, according to the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services deputy commissioner Mark Roche. It is thought that no one was killed by the cyclone. Roche puts that down to preparedness and the community’s willingness to heed the advice of emergency services.
. says focus is to ascertain level of damage from . Adds there have been reports of people stranded in flooded cars
The Bruce Highway is flooded 10km north of Bowen.
FLOOD WARNING - Bruce Hwy blocked at Sandy Gully 10kms north of Bowen. Remember, if it's flooded - FORGET IT
Floodwaters are continuing to cut off roads and threaten communities. Mackay is of particular concern. The Bureau of Meteorology’s hydration manager, Victoria Dodds, said the Pioneer basin, which drains down to Mackay, has had 1,000mm of rain in 48 hours. “To put that in context, we would normally expect to see 1,500mm to 2,000mm over a year,” Dodds said. “So huge rainfall totals recorded in that Mackay-Pioneer basin.”
Readings from Bureau of Meteorology monitoring sites show the wind gust speed peaked at 263km/h at Hamilton Island, with lower speeds recorded at other areas in the region.
The Bureau of Meteorology is warning rainfall of 100mm an hour is being recorded in Mackay. A separate severe storm warning has been issued for the region.
Separate severe warning for area for very heavy rainfall leading to flash . Rainfall has reached 100mm per hour
The two fishermen whose ship ran aground off Whitsunday Island, Brian Burton and Sean Short, have spoken about their ordeal. The two men were forced to ride out the cyclone while stuck in their ship. Burton said they had anchored and were ready for the cyclone but were not expecting it to make landfall so close.
2 men stranded after their boat ran aground near Whitsunday Is have been rescued by police.
Heavy rainfall is continuing to cause extensive flash flooding around Mackay. Police are urging motorists to stay off the road.
Very heavy rain is impacting the Mackay area and it's causing extensive flash flooding. Residents are asked to stay off the roads.
ATTENTION CENTRAL COAST RESIDENTS inc. MACKAY & WHITSUNDAYS. There is a SEVERE WEATHER WARNING in place with FLASH FLOODING likely
Heavy rain, damaging wind gusts and flash flooding predicted for the next SEVERAL HOURS. Please delay all non-essential travel, stay indoors
Ex-Cyclone Debbie is thought to have caused significant damage to the region’s sugar cane and other crops. The extent of damage is still unclear, and authorities are having difficulty contacting farmers in isolated areas. But from the pictures that are starting to emerge, it’s safe to say that farmers are facing some pretty tough times.
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s reef recovery director, Dr David Wachenfeld, is concerned about the cyclone’s impact. that Cyclone Debbie was likely to have damaged reefs in its path, as Cyclone Yasi did in 2011. “The primary concern will be the immediate physical damage in that central part of the storm with high wind speeds,” Wachenfeld said. “It’s had lots of time for the wave energy to be built up by the winds and for that wave energy to hit the tops of the reefs.”
Ergon Energy’s communications director, John Fowler, has urged those with solar systems to turn them off. “They should have turned them off before the storm, they need to turn them off at the switchboard and the inverter,” Fowler told the ABC.
Flooding has now cut off the Bruce Highway near the banks of the Burdekin river. The road is closed to all traffic at Home Hill, near Ayr.
now cut at First Street, Home Hill, due to flooding. Latest road closures:
Cars are negotiating fallen trees and debris on the road between Airlie Beach and Shute Harbour. Authorities are urging residents to keep off the roads.
Queensland Health for staying healthy in the aftermath of a cyclone. It advises residents to:
Vision shows the Pioneer river, at Mackay, is swollen with floodwater. The water is moving at speed and carrying debris. A major flood warning has been issued for the river. Mackay’s mayor, Greg Williamson, said flooding was occurring on streets in the township of Mirani, on the upper reaches of the river.
Ferocious rapids for our famous 'blue' Pioneer River in after
Authorities are continuing to warn motorists to stay off the road. Flash flooding is occurring at numerous sites along the coast, including Proserpine and the outskirts of Bowen and Mackay. Major flooding is taking place along the Connors, Isaac and Pioneer rivers.
Heavy rain & flash flooding expected across parts of QLD due to . Remember: if it’s flooded, forget it.
resources from on the outskirts of on way to assist in recovery. As can be seen dangerous road conditions .Take care
Roads now completely cut of due to flooding just outside Mackay
Road crew clearing tree from bridge on Bruce Highway north of Bowen
Emergency relief supplies are being loaded on to the Royal Australian navy’s HMAS Choules at the Port of Brisbane. The ship will deliver emergency stores, engineering and other specialist equipment to the impact zones in north Queensland. Two other ships, HMAS Canberra and Adelaide, were unable to assist owing to engine problems.
Roads in Mackay are already showing visible signs of damage - don't drive unless you get the all clear from authorities
The heaviest rainfall in the past 24 hours was experienced at the Clarke Range, west of Mackay. There, 646mm fell between 9am Tuesday and 9am Wednesday. The Bureau of Meteorology is warning heavy rainfall will continue across the region as the tropical low moves south.
High rainfall totals 24hrs to 9am from . Highest 646mm at Clarke Range w of , many >200mm. Info
Heavy rain + wind from ex continue today, shifting south through tomorrow with heavy falls. Forecasts
The force of Cyclone Debbie pushed this yacht up on to the bank at Shute Harbour, near Airlie Beach.
The popular tourist spot Hamilton Island experienced some of the worst of Cyclone Debbie. Wind gusts reached more than 260km/h. Thankfully, there are still no reports of injuries from the island. Emergency response teams are working to restore power and water. Tourists who had planned holidays to Hamilton are being told to stay away for the time being.
We are advising people to stay away from the island at the moment. Please contact your travel provider to discuss your booking.
Malcolm Turnbull visited the crisis centre today and praised emergency services and the military for their efforts so far. He urged the private sector, banks, and insurance companies to pull together to support residents. “Nature has flung her worst at the people of north Queensland and it’s now our job to make sure that every agency pulls together,” the prime minister said.
More welcome news. The two men whose ship ran aground near Whitsunday Island have now been rescued. They are safe and well, police say. “A police rigid-hulled inflatable boat (RHIB) was deployed and whilst alongside the stricken vessel, the men aboard were able to lower themselves down into the RHIB,” Queensland police said in a statement.
2 men stranded after their boat ran aground near Whitsunday Is have been rescued by police.
More images are emerging from Shute Harbour, near Airlie Beach. Yachts moored in the harbour have been smashed into rocks or sunk, and a local motel has been destroyed.
Just another quick word on the power outages. We know 63,000 homes are without power. But the Queensland premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, has warned that the power losses may continue for as long as a week. About 820 electricity workers are being deployed to try to restore power. The state’s energy minister, Mark Bailey, said the workers had been pre-deployed to the north, south and inside the impact zone.
Some residents feared looters might attempt to take advantage of the cyclone’s aftermath. Police are deploying to affected communities and say they’re well prepared for looting. Some shop owners have decided to send their own message to would-be looters.
warning to anyone thinking of looting in
We showed you some images earlier of yachts that Cyclone Debbie had tossed around on Tuesday near Airlie Beach. An SBS reporter, Stefan Armbruster, has just posted this footage of the scene to Twitter. The winds are clearly still strong around the Whitsundays.
At least three yachts washed ashore in after
Bar and backpackers smashed by in
Carnage at Downunder backpacker bar as the rain returns in after
Before and after at the lagoon post
In welcome news, Queensland police say they still have no reports of injuries in the most severely affected areas of Bowen and the Whitsundays.
UPDATE The most severely affected area are around Bowen and the Whitsundays we have no reports of injuries
The Bureau of Meteorology is expecting the tropical low to move to south-east Queensland. It is warning that 150mm to 250mm of rain is forecast today, leaving a vast area of the state vulnerable to flooding. Rainfall will intensify to Thursday afternoon and Friday morning. A flood watch now covers a region between Ayr and the New South Wales border, stretching inland to the Queensland’s central highlands and the Darling Downs. Flash flooding has already forced two swift water rescues this morning, one at Proserpine, and another near Mackay. The Queensland Fire and Emergency Services commissioner, Katarina Carroll, urged people to stay off the roads, both to avoid flash flooding, and free up space for the army and emergency services.
Queensland Premier updates the media on the aftermath of .
Palaszczuk said 63,000 homes were still without power. Almost half of Mackay homes were without power. There was 75% power loss in Sarina, and homes were without power in Moranbah, Proserpine, Bowen and Airlie Beach. Isolated communities across the coast were without phone service, she said.
"Residents on the Whitsunday coast: please stay off the road," . Army reconnaissance to start at 9am AEST
The Queensland premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, is speaking at a media conference now. “My main message today for residents on the Whitsunday coast is, please, stay off the roads,” she says. “We need you to stay off the roads because at 9 o’clock this morning, the ADF will be doing [reconnaissance], they will be looking at the structural damage which is happening on the Whitsunday coast, and we need to be able to get our emergency services personnel in as quickly as possible.”
Qld Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk urging people to stay off roads around Whitsunday coast
The Bruce Highway is blocked in a number of places, emergency services say. If you’re in the region, and need more detail on road closures, you can or a . Keep in mind that emergency services are still trying to work out exactly where the damage is, and which roads are blocked, so these lists may not be comprehensive. A State Emergency Services assistant commissioner, Peter Jeffrey, says specialist teams have been deployed to quickly assess damage across the region. That data will then be fed back to authorities, who will prioritise recovery efforts.
The reporter James Reynolds has captured footage of heavy damage at Shute Harbour, south of Airlie Beach. The Shute Harbour motel had sustained serious structural damage. Shute Harbour’s boat terminal appears all but destroyed.
Boat terminal at Shute Harbour wrecked by
Heavy damage to motel near Shute Harbour after
Heavy rainfall is causing major flooding across the region. The Bureau of Meteorology’s James Taylor said the heaviest rainfall was about 940mm, recorded in a location north of the Pioneer river, which runs south-west of Mackay. The rainfall had caused major flooding of the river. Moderate flooding is also expected in other regions between Bowen and Mackay. Taylor said waves in excess of eight metres were recorded on buoys off the north Queensland coast. Cyclone Debbie caused a storm surge, he said, but the timing, at low tide, limited its scale.
The Mackay mayor, Greg Williamson, has given an update on the situation in the city. It’s still experiencing strong wind gusts and rainfall. Williamson has told Channel Seven there was “significant damage” in his area but no real reports of damaged homes at this stage. “We’ve had a significant amount of structural damage, just mainly trees, rubbish, and debris,” he says.
The winds are still very sting in as the severe weather continues. Flooding is now a concern
Offers of help are beginning to flow in from interstate. NSW is deploying a contingent of emergency services to help in the clean-up, according to the premier, Gladys Berejiklian. “Rapid damage assessment teams will be deployed to Queensland today at 10am at the request of the Queensland government,” she said.
ACT to provide cyclone help to QLD
More pictures are starting to come out of north Queensland now.
Nasa of Cyclone Debbie, captured just as the eye of the storm made landfall. The image was taken by the Nasa-Noaa Suomi NPP satellite at 1.42pm Queensland time.
I mentioned a little earlier that a baby girl had been delivered at a Whitsundays ambulance station as Debbie tore through the region. The Queensland health minister, Cameron Dick, has just posted a photo of the new mother and daughter. The baby, Billiana, was delivered by a grad paramedic.
Well done to grad paramedic Pam who safely delivered Billiana amid @ Cannonvale this am. All doing well
How good is this! Welcome to the world baby girl, QAS paramedics with mum, dad and bub .
Nasa has of the view of Cyclone Debbie from space overnight. The footage, recorded from International Space Station’s live stream, shows Debbie as it makes landfall early on Tuesday afternoon. Skip ahead to the two-minute mark.
The Whitsunday mayor, Andrew Willcox, has an update on the situation in Bowen. He is urging people to stay inside, warning that power lines are down all over the town. Willcox said residents should assume the lines are still live. “We’ve managed to get here fatality-free, so we definitely don’t want any fatalities in the mop-up,” he said.
"looks like a war zone" after , says Whitsunday mayor Andrew Willcox, but they got through without any fatalities
And just as I published that last post, news emerges that police have found the two missing men. The pair are safe and on board their vessel, according to police. The difficulty now is getting to them.
: Qld Police have located two sailors caught up in and will send help as soon as possible. More:
Police are searching for two men whose boat ran aground on rocks near Whitsunday Island last night. An aerial search is under way for the pair but the effort is difficult in the aftermath of the cyclone. Water police from the Whitsundays and Townsville cannot join the search until conditions are safe. Police say the men were able to email their family in New South Wales, who then alerted police. Queensland’s Fire and Emergency Services commissioner, Katarina Carroll, said a lack of communications was complicating the search.
Police are coordinating a search for 2 men on board a vessel that ran aground on rocks near Whitsunday Is last night
Two heartwarming stories have emerged in Debbie’s wake. A woman gave birth to a girl in a Whitsundays ambulance station as Cyclone Debbie moved across the region. Flooding had cut off roads and prevented the woman from reaching the hospital. “You know, out of all of this, to see a little miracle, I think brings a smile to a lot of faces and especially to all those people who have been working so hard overnight,” the Queensland premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, told the ABC.
Wednesday's Townsville Bulletin front page.
More than 30,000 residents were evacuated from their homes as Cyclone Debbie headed toward the north Queensland coast. As they return home, authorities are expecting reports of damage and calls for SES help to increase significantly. The return of power to homes is also expected to lead to the number of requests for help increasing dramatically. Queensland’s Fire and Emergency Services commissioner, Katarina Carroll, said her staff had conducted a quick walkthrough of Proserpine late on Tuesday. The damage was extensive.
The Queensland premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, has given an update on what is known in the aftermath of Debbie. Authorities have been unable to get through to Hayman Island, in the Whitsundays. All roads have been cut off around Bowen, Airlie Beach and Proserpine, and will take some time to clear.
Minor flooding in .
Let’s recap the overnight events.
is now a tropical low, though the situation remains very hazardous. Severe Weather Warning:
As dawn breaks along the Queensland coast, the extent of damage and destruction caused by Cyclone Debbie is being revealed. Ex-Cyclone Debbie is continuing to pose a risk to residents, and authorities fear continuing rainfall and damaging winds will cause flooding and damage on Wednesday. Follow our live coverage as authorities begin the mammoth clean-up effort and assess the extent of damage and injury caused by the storm. If it’s safe to do so, share your experience of Cyclone Debbie with us by sending photos or your story to firstname.lastname@example.org.