ROCKHAMPTON, Australia (AFP) – Australia was clearing up Saturday after two severe cyclones left a trail of destruction, wrecking hundreds of homes and cutting electricity to tens of thousands, even as authorities warned of more flooding and gusty winds to come.
Tropical Cyclone Marcia barrelled through the northeastern state of Queensland Friday at the highest-rated category five, ripping apart houses, uprooting trees and bringing down power lines.
The severe system hit hours after category four Tropical Cyclone Lam slammed into the Northern Territory, causing extensive damage to remote Aboriginal communities near Elcho Island, some 500 kilometres east of the territory’s capital Darwin.
Both cyclones have since eased to tropical lows, but the Bureau of Meteorology warned of further flooding, heavy rains, damaging winds and dangerous surf in southeast Queensland and northern New South Wales state.
“Large parts of Australia, including the Northern Territory and also in Queensland, are being ravaged by the major cyclones,” Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Saturday in the Northern Territory.
Despite the destruction, authorities have so far not received reports of serious injuries, missing people, or deaths.
“Everyone is breathing a deep sigh of relief that there has been, to this date, no loss of life,” Quensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told reporters.
Palaszczuk said the central Queensland coastal town of Yeppoon, about 670 kilometres north of the capital Brisbane, and nearby Rockhampton were the worst hit.
“The cyclone has actually caused quite some considerable damage in both Yeppoon and Rockhampton,” she said, adding that some 60,000 people were without power.
“Yeppoon has suffered the brunt of the cyclone and it is going to take a lot longer for power to be restored there.”
Queensland’s fire and emergency services said 200 homes in Yeppoon and 340 in Rockhampton were damaged or flooded.
Andrew Bennett described how his Yeppoon house was torn apart by the cyclone.
“It was incredible, it just exploded,” he told Brisbane’s Courier Mail as he described the “roaring” wind.
“The house seemed to pulsate and the wind blew out the window. Then the roof blew off. I couldn’t believe all the rain that was coming in.”
The clean-up process has started in Rockhampton, which Marcia passed directly over, as fallen trees were removed from roads.
There were long queues for fuel as it ran out at the two stations with power in the town of 80,000 residents, with people filling jerrycans for generators.
Some 700 soldiers and several helicopters were ready to be deployed to help with the damage assessment and debris removal, Palaszczuk said, adding that emergency services, police and energy workers were already on the ground.
In the Northern Territory, a state of emergency has been declared for areas hardest hit by Lam.
Federal disaster relief support would be offered to affected residents, Abbott said, adding that similar help was also extended to Queensland.
Northern Territory Chief Minister Adam Giles said teams working with the Aboriginal communities of Galiwinku, Milingimbi, Ramingining and Gapuwiyak to restore power and water.
Parts of southeast Queensland, which has already been saturated by a separate weather system bringing hundreds of millimetres of rain to the region since Thursday, could be hit by flooding as Marcia tracks south before moving out to sea later Saturday.
Flood warnings have also been issued for northeast New South Wales state just below Queensland.
Queensland has been smashed by several major storms and cyclones over the past few years with Cyclone Oswald, also a category five, flooding parts of the state in 2013, racking up insurance claims of some Aus$977 million (US$765 million).