A mammoth tropical cyclone is expected to make landfall in Queensland at about midday on Tuesday when it crosses the coast between the towns of Ayr and Midge Point.
Cyclone Debbie has reached Category 4 – the second most severe level of tropical cyclone. It is likely to cause significant structural damage to buildings and widespread power outages.
Signs of Cyclone Debbie's impending arrival include torrential rain, with some areas of the Sunshine State receiving more than 600 millimetres of rain in the past 24 hours.
Island resorts off Queensland's coast have been whipped by fierce winds, and gusts are expected to reach up to 275 km/h, the Bureau of Meteorology has warned.
Wind gusts of nearly 200km/h were recorded by the bureau at Hamilton Island airport at 6:52am Tuesday. The eye of the cyclone passed over Hayman Island at 8am bringing gusts of 222km/h.
About 25,000 people in low lying areas of Mackay were last night told to evacuate their homes.
Residents have been urged to tie down loose objects around their properties, ensure their cars are full of fuel and prepare emergency kits.
Shopfronts and homes have been sandbagged and people have been told by the state's premier and emergency services to stay inside.
Many people have stockpiled candles and torches in case their homes lose power during the storm.
More than 23,000 homes from the Whitsunday and Mackay regions have lost power due to “damage caused by cyclone activity”, Ergon Energy has reported.
The warning zone has been extended from Lucinda to St Lawrence, including Townsville, Mackay, and the Whitsunday Islands.
It stretches inland to Charters Towers, Mount Coolon, Moranbah, and Pentland.
More to come.
Gina Rushton is a breaking news reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.
Contact Gina Rushton at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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