SYDNEY, March 27 Thousands of Australians were
being urged to evacuate from coastal communities in the path of
a powerful cyclone on Monday, as the storm bore down on the
Cyclone Debbie is forecast to strengthen to a Category four
storm, bringing winds of up to 300 km per hour (185 miles per
hour), before it makes landfall in Queensland state early on
Tuesday, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology said.
State Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk warned it would be the
most powerful storm to hit the country since Cyclone Yasi in
2011, which destroyed homes, shredded crops and ruined island
The Abbot Point coal terminal and ports at Mackay and Hay
Point have been closed until further notice, ports spokeswoman,
Fiona Cunningham, said.
Forced evacuations have been enacted for several low-lying
townships near Townsville, while authorities recommended that
thousands of people further south also evacuate.
"This is going to be a nasty cyclone," Palaszczuk told Nine
Network television. "These wind gusts are going to be absolutely
The army was on standby to provide assistance once the storm
had passed, she said, while fuel and energy companies were
stockpiling supplies and extra food stocks were being sent to
Gales were already lashing the tourist resorts of the
Whitsunday Islands off the Queensland coast.
Queensland produces some 95 percent of Australian bananas
and while Cyclone Debbie is on course to miss the largest
growing regions in the state's far north, analysts said heavy
rains and strong winds could cause significant crop damage.
A category five storm is the strongest on the five-step
Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane intensity.
(Reporting by Tom Westbrook and Colin Packham. Editing by Jane
Wardell and Richard Pullin)