Cyclone Debbie damage could cost billions, warns Insurance Council

Cyclone Debbie was expected to cross the Queensland state coast along a sparsely populated 100-kilometre stretch between the towns of Ayr and Bowen early Tuesday, Australian Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Michael Paech said.

Debbie is expected to develop into category three late Sunday.

The hurricane strong winds aare now packing a force of roughly 185 kilometers per hour, the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) said, warning that gusts could reach 270kph near the center.

Rob Whelan, CEO of the insurance body, said the cost of the damage from the cyclone was yet to be estimated, but insurers were bracing for thousands of claims in the coming weeks.

On average Australia sees about 11 cyclones per year.

A Category 4 storm, one below the most risky wind-speed level, Debbie is expected to be the worst in the region since Yasi in 2011.

"It sounds like you got a jumbo jet sitting on the roof of your house", Mr Collins said by telephone of the wind roaring outside.

One of the affected areas is Airlie Beach, a popular tourist spot that has turned into a ghost town as the storm hit.

The eye of Cyclone Debbie has lashed the north Queensland coastline near Airlie Beach, after battering Hayman Island and the Whitsunday Islands with hurricane-force winds. "But our emergency services personnel can not go out on to the roads at the moment due to the unsafe conditions".

"Sadly, I think that we will also receive more reports of injuries, if not death".

The army has been called in to deal with what is expected to be severe damage wrought by the winds and coastal storm surges of more than 8ft.

Flooding and significant damage to buildings and infrastructure was being reported as the cyclone crossed the coast.

"Queensland supplies around 50 per cent of world seaborne met [allurgical] coal", he said.

The massive storm was also packing sustained winds of 185 kph (114 mph), with gusts reaching more than 262 kph (163 mph).

FORMER Gisborne woman Sandra Cox will shelter inside her windowless bathroom with her five dogs as the brunt of Cyclone Debbie passes over her Queensland home this afternoon.

"For these types of events we make informed decisions based on consultation and information from government emergency management groups", he said. "Go to the Whitsundays they said, it'd be fun they said, lovely weather over here", holidaymaker Kurt Moore told the Sydney Morning Herald.

Despite issuing evacuation orders, police said they were not sure how many people had heeded their advice.

The cyclone made landfall in a relatively uninhabited section of Western Australia but was responsible for dumping 145 mm of rain in Darwin in just 24 hours.

  • Zachary Reyes