Australia evacuates thousands ahead of cyclone Debbie

Canberra, March 27: Australian authorities on Monday are speeding up the evacuation of thousands of people as cyclone Debbie approaches.

Debbie, currently a Category 3, is expected to make landfall on March 28, EFE news reported.

The cyclone could reach Category 4 when it crosses the north coast of Queensland on Tuesday, Australian Meteorology Bureau said.

About 3,500 people have been evacuated from the area. Schools and daycare centres have been closed until further notice.

Several airlines like Jetstar, Virgin and Qantas have cancelled flights to Townsville, Hamilton and Mackay.

Over 1,000 emergency services and armed-forces teams have been deployed in the region to carry out the preemptive tasks before the arrival of cyclone.

The agency said Debbie will be the most powerful storm to hit Australia since cyclone Yasi in 2011, which caused severe damage along large tracks of the coast.

It is expected to reach land near Bowen with a 100-km wide core generating up to 240-kph winds near its centre.

In addition to Townsville, authorities have issued an alert in Cardwell, St. Lawrence, Mackay, Bowen, Collinsville town and the tourist islands of Whitsunday.