Thousands of people have been asked to evacuate many towns in two Australian states as flood water rose to dangerous levels in the region. Authorities on Friday warned that the severe flooding in the area caused by Cyclone Debbie could result in casualties.
The Category four storm, termed as Cyclone Debbie, hit the northeastern coastal regions of Australia, between Bowen and Airlie beach in Queensland state, on Tuesday, uprooting trees and causing widespread damage as it passed. The storm carried wind gusts of more than 220 km per hour (135 mph) when it hit the resorts on the Whitsunday Islands, cutting power to hundreds of people.
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Although the cyclone was later downgraded to a tropical low as it crossed the southeast, it continued to pack strong winds and delivered huge amount of rain all along the eastern coast to New South Wales state, south of Queensland, and Sydney.
Lismore, near the New South Wales coast, was the hardest hit with warning of three-metre (9.8-feet) high flood water levels in the town, according to state Emergency Services.
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"Overnight we had about 130 flood rescues, most of which services were unable to get to. So... as we start to go out and try to find people that made those calls overnight, there could be some very distressing news," SES acting deputy commissioner Mark Morrow told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. "There could be people overnight that perished in that flood, we don't know at this stage," AFP reported.
Evacuation orders have also been given to Tweed Heads, Kingscliff and Murwillumbah town. Reports state that thousands of people are still without power in certain areas, including Bowen, Mackay and the Whitsundays.
The army has mobilised around 1,300 soldiers to assess the full extent of the damage and help provide emergency aid to the stranded people.