SYDNEY, March 30 Emergency services plan to
evacuate thousands of people stranded on resort islands with
water supplies running low in Australia's tropical northeast on
Thursday, two days after Cyclone Debbie tore through the region.
Tens of thousands more people on the mainland remained
without power and many regions were cut off by flooding as
officials warned that more heavy rainfall was on the way.
"The rain is coming, significant rain," Queensland Fire and
Emergency Services Mark Roche told Australian Broadcasting Corp
Cyclone Debbie struck on Tuesday, smashing tourist resorts,
flattening canefields and shutting down coal mines in
Queensland state as a category four storm, one rung below the
most dangerous wind speed level.
The storm, now downgraded to a tropical low, continued to
track over Queensland's central interior in a southeasterly
direction on Thursday, slowing attempts by the army and
emergency workers to start what is expected to be a lengthy
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is due to tour the region
later on Thursday with tourism and agriculture expected to take
a major hit from the storm.
Resorts along the world-famous Great Barrier Reef and
coastal areas bore the brunt of the storm with wind gusts
stronger than 260 kph (160 mph).
Pictures from Hamilton Island and Airlie Beach showed
streets stacked with snapped trees, roof tiles and furniture,
with wrecked yachts washed ashore.
The naval ship HMAS Choules was on its way up to the
Whitsunday Islands with food supplies and special equipment to
begin repairing and rebuilding infrastructure.
In the Bowen Basin, the world's single largest source of
coal used to make steel, BHP Billiton, Glencore
, and Stanmore Coal all said work at mines
there was halted until further notice. Analysts said Debbie
could push coking coal prices higher.
Hundreds of hectares of sugarcane crops had been flattened
and Wilmar said its sugar mills were stilled at
Proserpine and Sarina.
One woman, a tourist, died on Monday in a car crash that
police said was due to wild weather on Debbie's approach.
Another two people were injured as the storm passed through.
(Reporting by Jane Wardell; editing by Mark Heinrich)