World

Thousands take shelter as 'screaming' cyclone hits Australia

SYDNEY: Howling winds, heavy rain and huge waves pounded Australia's north-east yesterday, damaging homes, wrecking jetties and cutting power to thousands of people as Tropical Cyclone Debbie tore through Queensland state's far north.

Wind gusts stronger than 260 kmh were recorded at tourist resorts along the world-famous Great Barrier Reef as the powerful storm made landfall as a Category Four, one rung below the most dangerous wind speed level.

DOWNGRADED

It was later downgraded to a Category Three storm.

Forecasters said strong winds could persist for as long as 10 hours, although it would then weaken rapidly and was expected to be downgraded to Category One before dawn today.

Police said one man was badly hurt when a wall collapsed at Proserpine, about 900km north-west of Queensland's capital Brisbane.

However, the weather was still too bad to assess damage fully or mount an emergency response. "We will also receive more reports of injuries, if not deaths. We need to be prepared for that," said Queensland Police Commissioner Ian Stewart.

Cyclone Debbie made landfall at Airlie Beach, north of Proserpine, shortly after midday local time, knocking out telephone services. - REUTERS

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