Tropical Cyclone Debbie barrels down on northeast Australia, leaves more than 50,000 homes without power

Howling winds, heavy rain and huge seas pounded Australia’s northeast on Tuesday, damaging homes, wrecking jetties and leaving more than 50,000 homes without power as Tropical Cyclone Debbie tore through the far north of Queensland.

The massive storm is a Category 5 storm. Cyclone Debbie, the most powerful storm to hit Australia since Cyclone Yasi caused more than $600 million in damage in 2011, made landfall Tuesday.

Police said one man was badly hurt when a wall collapsed at Proserpine, about 900 km (560 miles) northwest of the Queensland capital, Brisbane, and was taken to hospital.

“It’s very noisy: Screaming, howling wind … sounds like a freight train,” Jan Clifford told Reuters by text from Airlie Beach as the cyclone made landfall.

PM Malcolm Turnbull told parliament he had activated a disaster response plan. “Conditions have deteriorated rapidly,” he said. “Take care and stay safe. Be prepared to shelter in place until Wednesday.” He said defence force helicopters and naval vessels would be sent to Queensland with aid.

Torrential rain flooded streets and wind smashed windows, uprooted trees and tossed debris down streets, TV images showed. Power was cut for 48,000 people in a wide area between the towns of Bowen and Mackay, north and south of Airlie Beach, Ergon Energy spokesman John Fowler said.

Authorities had urged thousands of people in threatened areas to flee their homes on Monday, in what would have been the biggest evacuation seen in Australia since Cyclone Tracy devastated the northern city of Darwin on Christmas Day, 1974.