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Australia begins 'war zone' cleanup after Cyclone Debbie

People living on Australia's tropical northeast coast are assessing the damage left by a cyclone which has battered the region. Tens of thousands of homes are without power and some areas are still completely cut off.

Watch video 01:03

Australia fears flooding after Cyclone Debbie

Cyclone Debbie ripped through parts of the Australian state of Queensland on Tuesday, bringing heavy rains and wind gusts stronger than 260 kilometers per hour (160 mph).

It caused substantial damage in some areas, with residents waking up to find roofs lying in their yards, battered boats washed ashore and roads blocked by fallen trees and power lines.

The country's military has deployed vehicles, aircraft and supplies to the region. Some 50,000 homes are without power and several communities are isolated with no access to communications.

Australien Wirbelsturm Debbie wütet (REUTERS/AAP/S. Motherwell)

This plane was flipped by strong winds at Bowen airport

'War zone'

Debbie devastated some of the region's tourist hotspots, particularly the Whitsunday and Great Barrier Reef islands. One mayor described the scene in Bowen, close to where the storm hit the mainland, as looking like a "war zone."

"This beautiful seaside town is now half-wrecked, but we will rebuild," said Whitsunday Regional Council mayor Andrew Willcox.

Debbie hit the region as a category four storm - one below the most dangerous wind speed level - but has been downgraded to a tropical low. Nonetheless, the country's Bureau of Meteorology is warning of damaging wind gusts with "intense" rain.

Counting the cost

Australien Wirbelsturm Debbie wütet (REUTERS/AAP/D. Peled)

Debbie lifted boats completely ashore, like this yacht smashed against the harbor at Airlie Beach

Australia's insurance council has declared Cyclone Debbie as a catastrophe and warned the damage bill could hit billions of dollars, according to Australian national broadcaster ABC.

A farmers' lobby group says farmers alone could face a damage bill of over AUD$1 billion (706,800 million euros, $764,600).

"We're expecting an enormous bill of damage to come out of this cyclone event. When you have a look at the industries, the agricultural industries that are up in that area, we're talking about a horticultural industry around the Bowen area that probably last year turned over in excess of $450 million, and along with that, a cane industry around Burdekin, Proserpine, Mackay, (an) $850 million industry. So well over a billion dollars of damage could be done through this event," Fiona Simson, President of the National Farmers Federation, told ABC News 24.

The federal government has activated a disaster response plan to assist areas hardest hit, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said.

Watch video 00:25

Australian cyclone leaves damage 'like war zone'

jr/bw (Reuters, AFP)

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