Cyclone Debbie: Australia surveys devastation

Floodwater in Lismore Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Lismore in New South Wales was badly hit

Australia is surveying the devastation wrought by Cyclone Debbie, which has flooded vast tracts "almost the size of Texas" and left at least three dead.

Debbie has now blown out over the Tasman Sea after bringing a deluge of rain down the eastern coast from its impact point in Queensland.

Flood alerts remain, crops have been submerged and the bill may run into hundreds of millions of dollars.

A third body was found in Queensland on Saturday afternoon.

Seventy-seven-year-old Nelson Raebel died in the floodwaters in Logan, south of Brisbane.

Several people remain missing.

The main disaster zone stretches more than 1,000km (620 miles) from the point where Debbie made landfall, between Bowen and Airlie in Queensland, to the farming lands of northern New South Wales.

Evacuation orders and flood alerts remain in some areas, as water moves into the Fitzroy River catchment.

Michelle Verry, of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology in Queensland, told Agence France-Presse: "It's almost the size of Texas, it's a huge catchment, and that's why it can take some time for water to make it's way downstream."

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The Whitsunday Islands were close to where Debbie made landfall

It is feared Rockhampton, in central Queensland, could suffer its biggest flood in 60 years later in the week, with thousands of homes and business at risk.

The army and emergency services are still working to restore water and electricity in badly hit areas. Tens of thousands of people have been forced to leave their homes.

Local officials continued to issue warnings both about the floodwaters and the cost to their areas.

Luke Smith, mayor of Logan, said of the expected cost: "This is unprecedented for us. The sky is the limit at this stage about what that means."

The Logan river hit a 10m peak and Mr Smith urged people to stay away from swift-moving floodwaters.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said: "Debbie is not done with us yet. It is going to take months to repair."

Crop fears

Further south in New South Wales, the mayor of Lismore described the scene there as "like a war zone".

"There is just so much debris floating around. It's really hard to even assess how long it's going to take to collect all of this rubbish," Isaac Smith said.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The Logan river south of Brisbane reached a 10m peak

Two of the fatalities were in New South Wales. The body of a woman who disappeared from an area just south of the Queensland border on Thursday was found by a family member. The second victim died after the car she was in was swept away.

Damage to crops will take time to assess as many areas are still inaccessible.

One cane farmer at Proserpine, near where Debbie made landfall, said his crop had been flattened.

Glenn Clarke told ABC: "It's like a steam roller has driven over the top. A crop is normally three to four metres tall and it's now knee to waist high. You can see over it for miles."

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Media captionCyclone Debbie seen from space.

But areas that were not deluged welcomed the rain they had received, given previous drought conditions.

The Insurance Council of Australia has estimated the damage bill could reach AS$1bn ($770m).

The cyclone is also likely to have damaged the Great Barrier Reef, marine experts warned.

Tourism operators across Queensland reported cancellations and anticipated long-term disruption to the industry.

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