(Adds comments from Australian Prime Minister and Tourism
Minister, details of further evacuation orders)
SYDNEY, April 1 Tens of thousands of Australians
were stranded by floodwaters on Saturday after the remnants of a
powerful cyclone swept along the country's east coast, cutting
roads, destroying bridges and killing two people.
The disaster zone from ex-Cyclone Debbie stretched 1,000 km
(600 miles) from Queensland state's tropical resort islands and
Gold Coast tourist strip to the farmlands of New South Wales
state, with more than 100,00 homes without power.
Six large rivers had reached major flood levels and were
still rising in several areas, said the Bureau of Meteorology.
Authorities ordered further evacuations in parts of northern
New South Wales on Saturday, while the city of Rockhampton in
Queensland state is bracing for record-level flooding next week,
Queensland Police said.
Flood sirens sounded in several towns on Friday, prompting
stranded residents to climb on to roofs of flooded homes to
await rescue, but fast-moving water and high winds hindered
emergency crews reaching several areas.
Police said they recovered the bodies of two women from
floodwaters late on Friday, the first reported deaths since
Cyclone Debbie hit on Tuesday. One was found on a swamped
property and the other retrieved by police divers from a car
that had been swept off a flooded bridge.
Authorities fear more people may have died overnight as
floodwaters continued to rise.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull urged people to heed the
advice of authorities.
"This is a very dangerous time in these flooded areas. I
want to say to everybody who is affected by these floods – do
not go into flooded waters," he told reporters on Saturday.
Cyclone Debbie, a category four storm, one short of the most
powerful level five, pounded Queensland state on Tuesday,
smashing tourist resorts, bringing down power lines and shutting
down coal mines.
Australia’s Defence Force was deployed to help deliver
medical personnel and supplies to communities in the north of
Debbie will hit Australia's A$1.7 trillion ($1.3 trillion)
economy, with economists estimating it will slow growth to under
2 percent in the first quarter.
Tourism Minister Steven Ciobo said on Saturday
Australians should not be put off their holiday plans.
"I would just encourage every Aussie, if they've already
made a booking in that part of the world, please follow through
on it," he said on television.
In the Bowen Basin, the world's single largest source of
coal used in steel-making, Glencore said its mines were
not damaged by the storm but restarting production depended on
Three of rail operator Aurizon's four railway lines
in the region were closed and BHP, was
assessing the extent of disruption to shipments.
Queensland's top insurers, Suncorp Group Ltd and
RACQ, said it was too early to put a dollar figure on the
(Reporting by Jane Wardell and Harry Pearl; Editing by Andrew
Roche and Eric Meijer)