Evacuations continued Sunday along Australia’s Queensland coast as a Category 5 cyclone moved closer to the mainland.
Residents were preparing for Cyclone Hamish, possibly the worst storm in almost 30 years, to make landfall Tuesday between Bundaberg and Hervey Bay.
Winds of up to 280 km/h were recorded as the cyclone approached islands in north Queensland on Sunday.
The town of Airlie Beach, which is the gateway from the mainland to the Whitsundays, was already being pounded by strong winds and heavy rain.
Evacuations were reported on several north Queensland islands, including Fraser, Lady Elliot, Heron, South Molle, Long and the Whitsunday Islands. On Hamilton Island, about 3,000 people were sheltering in the resort’s cyclone-proof hotel.
Both the Mackay and Hamilton Island airports were closed, Australia Network News reported.
Bureau of Meteorology Cyclone Warning Centre forecaster Tony Auden said the storm was moving parallel to the coast in northeastern Australia and was expected to continue on that course for the next one to two days.
Queensland Emergency Services Minister Neil Roberts said Hamish could produce a storm surge of up to two metres.