Tropical cyclone Marcia – a top-rating category five storm – slammed into the Queensland coast on Friday morning, just hours after the less powerful cyclone Lam had wreaked a trail of devastation in the Northern Territory.
Howling winds of more than 200kph and torrential rain marked the arrival of Marcia, which landed at Shoalwater Bay, a town of 16,000 people around 670km north of Brisbane.
Queensland police commissioner Ian Stewart had warned that “this is going to be a calamity” as the storm approached, but Marcia weakened after hitting land and was downgraded to a category three storm as she swept down the coast.
About 30,000 people in and around the town of Yeppoon had been expected to experience the worst of the storm, and nearly 900 residents were advised to evacuate. However, a change in the cyclone’s path spared them from the most ferocious winds, and the storm weakened as it headed south towards Rockhampton.
No fatalities and only a few minor injuries were reported, but there was still extensive damage to properties in Yeppoon. Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said 30,000 homes in the state were without power, and roads had been flooded. “We are very, very thankful that we have avoided the worst of what could have been an absolute catastrophe,” she said, as reported by Sky News.
Marcia completed Australia’s ‘cyclone’ sandwich’ after the category four cyclone Lam had earlier caused extensive damage to Aboriginal communities near Elcho island, around 500km east of the Northern Territory capital Darwin. Thousands of residents fled their homes before the storm landed at around 2am on Friday. Affected areas included Milingimbi, Ramingining and Gapuwiyak.