Emergency services were evacuating almost 1,000 homes in the direct path of the storm but they told other residents it was now too late to evacuate and urged them to bunker down in the safest place in their houses.
“Over the next 24 hours, Queenslanders are about to go through a harrowing and terrifying experience,” Queensland state Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told a news conference in Brisbane. “We are now very concerned with people’s safety.”
Cyclone Marcia was upgraded overnight to a category 5 system, the highest rating, but was later downgraded to a category 3 system as it continued across the coastline.
However, it left a trail of destruction in Yeppoon and in Rockhampton with roofs blown off homes and broken trees littering the streets, local media reported. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told reporters in Adelaide that his government will do it can to assist the Queensland state government.
Emergency services officials in the neighbouring Northern Territory were beginning to assess the damage caused by a second cyclone that hit the remote region earlier on Friday.
Cyclone Lam, a category 4 storm, made landfall in the early hours near the settlement of Ramingining, where residents were beginning to emerge to inspect the damage. Communications had been cut with tiny Elcho Island, which was believed to have experienced widespread damage, Northern Territory police said.
By midmorning Lam was downgraded to a category 2 storm but continued to dump heavy rain across Australia’s north as it moved southwest.