Cyclone Debbie sweeps through Australia’s northeastern coast

Strong wind and rain from Cyclone Debbie is seen effecting trees at Airlie Beach, located south of the northern Australian city of Townsville, March 28, 2017. AAP/Dan Peled/via REUTERS

BBC – A powerful cyclone has battered the north-east Australian coast, causing major damage, torrential rain and power cuts to tens of thousands of homes.

Cyclone Debbie made landfall between Bowen and Airlie Beach in Queensland as a category four storm, whipping gusts of up to 263km/h (163mph).

It is moving inland as a category two storm but could cause damage for hours yet.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said he was aware of one death so far.

Activating a disaster response plan, he stressed the picture could develop when emergency crews were able to assess the damage.

“Conditions have deteriorated rapidly,” he told parliament. “Take care and stay safe. Be prepared to shelter in place until Wednesday.”

Defence force helicopters and naval vessels would be sent to Queensland with aid, he added.

He said the Australian government would be urging insurance companies to be “compassionate” and supportive of people who have claims to make following the cyclone.

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