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Australia: Cyclone Debbie likely to intensify to category four storm


Townsville (Australia), Mar 27: Residents began evacuating low-lying areas of Australia's northeast as a powerful cyclone bore down on the coast.

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


The cyclone is expected to intensify from a category two storm on Monday to a category four storm with wind gusts of up to 260 kilometers per hour when it crosses onto land from the Pacific Ocean, he said.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk urged people in the most vulnerable areas to evacuate on Monday while there remains time before conditions deteriorate. She said the farming region had never experienced a storm stronger than category two, which packs wind gusts of between 125 and 164 kph.

Older homes would not withstand a category four storm, Palaszczuk said.

"The last thing I want is elderly men or women residing in their homes with these destructive winds," she told Australian Broadcasting Corp.

People were being bused out of low-lying areas ahead of a tidal surge that could be as high as 4 meters, Palaszczuk said.

"We need to prepare for worst-case scenario, so we are evacuating people along those coastal communities as quickly as possible," she said. The storm early Monday was about 400 kilometers east of Townsville, a coastal city 90 kilometers north of Ayr.


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