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Cyclone Debbie lashes the Queensland coast

National

Cyclone Debbie’s destructive core is battering the exposed mainland town of Airlie Beach where it has damaged homes and snapped trees after blasting Whitsunday Islands with wind gusts above 260km/h.

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The category four storm was expected to hit slightly north of Airlie Beach at 1pm (AEST), rather than just to the south of nearby Bowen as was previously forecast.

It’s now travelling towards the coast at 9km/h, slightly faster than the walking speed it has managed for most of Tuesday morning.

Meanwhile, residents and tourists on the normally idyllic Hamilton and Hayman Islands are being warned to stay indoors as the eye of Cyclone Debbie passes over.

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services Deputy Commissioner Mark Roche said the calm of the eye often brought a false sense of security.

“Just because the cyclone passes, you may see beautiful blue skies, but the truth is the back end of the cyclone may not have come through,” he said.

“This could be many hours, so listen to the radio and we will advise people when it’s clear.”

Residents on Hamilton Island have reported that the eye wall – the most destructive part of the cyclone which comes before the calm eye – has damaged buildings and brought torrential rain.

Holiday makers stuck on Hamilton Island are bunkered down in their rooms away from windows and doors.

Helena Mo told AAP the wind had got worse throughout the morning.

“It just feels like it’s ripping through,” she said.

Wind gusts of 230-260km/h have been recorded on the island, as the Category 4 Cyclone makes its way towards the north Queensland coast.

Mr Roche said huge wind gusts had damaged buildings and ripped trees from the ground.

“There is significant damage occurring with the rain, we are going to see debris, we are going to see powerlines down, we are going to see structural damage,” he said.

“So we’re saying to people stay inside, ride the cyclone out.”

Tourist Chris McMahon told Nine his two young children were “taking it pretty well” on Hamilton Island but friends on the western side of the island had sent a message saying their apartment was “getting smashed”.

“We haven’t heard any of the rain or wind all week until today,” he said.

“About one this morning is when it really picked up and it hasn’t let off since.”

– AAP

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