Floods inundate northeastern Australia in wake of Cyclone Debbie

Swollen rivers have flooded entire towns along Australia's east coast, closing roads and stranding residents after Cyclone Debbie ripped through the region.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Lismore, a town in the northeast of Australia's state of New South Wales, March 31, 2017.

Swollen rivers flooded entire towns along Australia's east coast on Friday, closing roads and leaving residents clinging to roofs and floating down streets in boats after the remnants of a powerful cyclone swept through the region.

The Wilsons River surged over the levee protecting the town of Lismore. By daybreak the centre of the town of 25,000 people in the Northern Rivers region of the state of New South Wales (NSW) was underwater.

Water was at roof level and cars, bins and other debris washed down streets, as residents fled and farmers drove their cattle to higher ground.

The aftermath of Cyclone Debbie, which pounded Queensland state on Tuesday, smashing tourist resorts, bringing down power lines and shutting down coal mines, has become a huge rain depression.

No deaths were reported so far from the storm, but there are still fears that fatalities may emerge after emergency workers logged more than 100 flood rescues during the night. Gales and huge surf swells lashed the coast around Cape Byron.

Authorities have ordered almost 20,000 people to evacuate to higher ground across parts of southern Queensland and the neighbouring NSW, where thousands of schools also shut.

In the cyclone-hit zone further north in Queensland, holidaymakers evacuated resort islands along the world-famous Great Barrier Reef, where the storm was strongest.

Insurers said it was too early to put a dollar figure on the damage.

TRTWorld and agencies