Sydney: Cyclone Debbie on Thursday continued to wreck havoc in Austalia, with extreme weather conditions continuing throughout much of the state of Queensland.
Schools in the southeast area of the state have been closed, and employers have been told to send their workers home, as the Bureau of Meteorology is expecting a month's worth of rain to fall in the course of the day, Xinhua news agency reported.
The two biggest cities in Queensland, the capital Brisbane, and tourist hot-spot the Gold Coast are bracing for huge downpours, with winds clocking between 90 to 125 km per hour set to hit by Thursday afternoon, with a heavy deluge of rain already falling in both areas.
Queensland Deputy Premier Jackie Trad has called for residents to put safety first, and to immediately retrieve their children from schools in the affected regions.
"We don't want parents and children to be on the road in 90 km/h weather or heavy rainfall," Trad said.
With safety as a primary focus, attention is also being directed to the massive recovery operation that is underway, with around 1,200 Australian Defence Force personnel being deployed as part of "Queensland Assist 17," the recovery operation in conjunction with state emergency services crews.
One of the main priorities for the rescue and recovery operation is the tourism hub of the Whitsunday Islands, the popular island group which includes both Hayman and Daydream Island.
Tourists have been stranded since the catastrophic weather event, with flights to get visitors and staff out of the devastated areas set to begin later this afternoon, weather permitting, as all maritime methods of transportation have been shut down due to the extreme weather conditions.
But Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has called on the public to not cancel planned trips to the resorts that have been hit, as the potential toll to tourism would see the cost of damages compounded upon if they were to lose even further revenue.