News State Queensland Malcolm Turnbull, Bill Shorten to visit Cyclone Debbie disaster zone
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Malcolm Turnbull, Bill Shorten to visit Cyclone Debbie disaster zone

cyclone debbie
Strong winds and heavy wind lash the coast of Queensland at Airlie Beach during Cyclone Debbie. Photo: AAP
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Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will fly to north Queensland on Thursday to inspect the damage done by the tropical cyclone Debbie.

Disaster assistance has been announced for producers affected in the Whitsunday and Mackay Regional Council areas who have been badly hit after Debbie struck on Tuesday.

Winter vegetable crops, sugar cane fields and the cattle industry have been hit hard, Agriculture and Rural Economic Development Minister Bill Byrne said.

“At this preliminary stage, the most significant agricultural impacts are damage to horticulture crops, sugar cane fields, irrigation equipment and cane train infrastructure,” he said.

“The beef cattle industry is also impacted from the high winds, debris and flooding.”

Meanwhile, the massive clean up in the disaster zone will resume on Thursday, amid fears heavy rainfall linked to the now ex-tropical cyclone Debbie will continue to wreak havoc in the state.

Mr Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten will head to the region to inspect damage and see relief efforts first-hand.

The prime minister received a briefing at the crisis co-ordination centre in Canberra on Wednesday and promised federal help for the region.

“It’s now our job to make sure that every agency pulls together and, indeed, the private sector, particularly the banks and insurance companies … to provide support to the people of north Queensland who have had a very tough day and night,” Mr Turnbull told reporters.

Flooding has stranded residents of communities already battered by Debbie, with the roads connecting Airlie Beach, Bowen and Proserpine cut off.

The Bruce Highway was cut off both north and south of Mackay and residents living downstream from the Kinchant Dam have been urged to self-evacuate or move to higher ground.

Major flood warnings were also issued for Connors, Isaac and Pioneer rivers, while lesser warnings applied to Theresa Creek, as well as the Don, Proserpine, Kolan and lower Burdekin rivers.

About 1200 Australian Defence Force personnel have been committed to the recovery operation, Queensland Assist 17, to support emergency services workers and volunteers.

They will be supported by RAAF aircraft and HMAS Choules, a landing ship with a range of disaster relief capabilities.

Sunwater has also advised outflows may occur from seven dams if forecast rainfall eventuates.

About 63,000 households across north Queensland had no power on Wednesday, with some expected to be in the dark for a week.

There’s expected to be massive economic impacts for farmers in the cyclone zone tourism, with Debbie inflicting significant damage to Whitsunday Island resorts.

A 300km stretch of cane fields has been ravaged in a region responsible for about half of Australia’s $2 billion sugar industry.

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