Rescuers at work in cyclone-hit Queensland

A boat seen smashed against the bank at Shute Harbour near Airlie Beach in north Queensland yesterday. Cyclone Debbie struck the Queensland coast at about midday on Tuesday, uprooting trees, washing boats ashore and ripping roofs off buildings. Farme
A boat seen smashed against the bank at Shute Harbour near Airlie Beach in north Queensland yesterday. Cyclone Debbie struck the Queensland coast at about midday on Tuesday, uprooting trees, washing boats ashore and ripping roofs off buildings. Farmers' crops were destroyed and rising floodwaters pose a danger.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Stranded residents and tourists waiting to be evacuated; 61,000 people still have no power supply

Rescuers in Australia are still trying to evacuate stranded residents and tourists in areas hit by Cyclone Debbie in north-east Queensland that one visitor described as looking like a "war zone".

Damage to homes, resorts, crops and mines there from the Category Four tropical cyclone has topped A$1.2 billion (S$1.28 billion) and the figure is expected to grow.

About 61,000 people were still without power yesterday and three people were confirmed injured but there were no reported deaths from the cyclone, which crossed the Queensland coast at about midday on Tuesday.

Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday there have not been any reports of Singaporeans affected, but urged those in need of consular assistance to contact the Singapore High Commission in Canberra.

One area badly hit by the 260kmh winds was the Whitsunday islands, and their famed Great Barrier Reef, where tourism brings in about A$700 million a year. The Australian Defence Force deployed 1,200 personnel to assist with evacuations and search and rescue efforts. A military ship with engineering equipment and humanitarian aid left Brisbane last night for the islands.

On Hamilton Island, holidaymakers were terrified as the cyclone uprooted trees, washed boats ashore and damaged buildings.

"The whole island is just smashed," one visitor, Mr Jon Clements, told Fairfax Media. "I just can't believe the state the place is in; it is extraordinary, it is almost unrecognisable. It looks like a war zone; it looks like some sort of bomb has gone off."

As heavy rainfall continued across the region, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull warned residents to avoid floodwaters as they could be "extremely dangerous".

"Nature has flung her worst at the people of Queensland," he said. "It's now our job to make sure that every agency pulls together…  to provide support for the people of north Queensland who have had a very tough day and night in this."

Queensland's Premier, Ms Annastacia Palaszczuk, visited the area yesterday and said it would take months for communities to recover.

Evacuation orders were issued for the town of Mackay which faced flooding.  About 1,000mm of rain fell in 48 hours in the region, which usually has 1,500mm to 2,000mm in an entire year.

Farmers said damage to sugar, tomato and capsicum crops , as well as their machinery and facilities, could top A$1 billion, and lead to higher grocery prices.   In the town of Pro- serpine, sugar farmer Glen Clarke said his crops were "flattened".

The Straits Times understands that Singapore's military bases in Queensland were not affected. Singapore Airlines said its Brisbane routes have not been disrupted, and SilkAir flights between Singapore and Cairns were normal.

Chan Brothers Travel and Dynasty Travel said their Queensland tours do not include areas hit by the cyclone and that as the storm heads towards popular destinations such as the Gold Coast, "necessary changes to the itinerary will be made in order to keep our travellers safe".

Amid the destruction, there was at least one piece of good news: A baby girl was born just hours after the cyclone passed through the coastal town of Airlie Beach. She was delivered at an ambulance station because access to the nearby hospital was impossible.

Ms Palaszczuk said: "Out of all of this, to see a little miracle, I think brings a smile to a lot of faces and especially to all those people who have been working so hard overnight."

• Additional reporting by Tiffany Fumiko Tay in Singapore 

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 30, 2017, with the headline 'Rescuers at work in cyclone-hit Queensland'. Print Edition | Subscribe