| 21.03,19. 01:27 PM |
Cyclone Trevor prompts mass evacuation from NT communities as it heads across Gulf
Photo: About 1,500 to 2,000 people are estimated to be awaiting evacuation at the Groote Eylandt airport. (Supplied)
Photo: Heavy rainfall from Cyclone Trevor caused a land slip at Barron Gorge, west of Cairns. (Supplied: Queensland Fire and Emergency Services)
Photo: Douglas Shire Council contractors had to rescue a car and bus after floodwaters impacted Foxton Bridge north of Mossman. (Supplied: Douglas Shire Council)
A state of emergency has been declared in the Northern Territory as Cyclone Trevor tracks across the Gulf of Carpentaria, Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner said.
The NT has begun the largest mass evacuation since Cyclone Tracy in 1974, with Trevor expected to strengthen to a category four or five system as it moves west across the Gulf.
The Australian Defence Force (ADF) is flying more residents from Groote Eylandt to Darwin today after transporting residents into the city yesterday.
Lieutenant Colonel Scott Jamison told ABC Local Radio the ADF was "prepared to evacuate a couple of thousand [people] in support of the Government".
"At the moment we've got four aircraft in the air … in the last 24 hours there's been hundreds of people involved in the planning, from Northern Territory Government, the local Defence Force personnel up here in Darwin, also Defence headquarters down in Canberra," he said.
Northern Territory Police, Fire and Emergency Services incident controller Hege Burns said local charter companies and Airnorth evacuated about 220 of the island's 1,600 residents yesterday, and the ADF would ramp up those efforts today.
At dawn, nine buses were due to bring residents from the coastal community of Numbulwar to Katherine, and buses will continue running throughout the day.
Trevor could hit category five
The current NT cyclone watch area is thought to be home to about 10,000 people, with about 5,000 in the most at-risk area from Groote Eylandt to Borroloola.
Emergency services are ensuring the most vulnerable residents are evacuated, while those who have the means are being allowed to get themselves out.
The cyclone's core is predicted to cross the southwestern coast of the Gulf of Carpentaria between Groote Eylandt and Borroloola on Saturday.
BOM forecaster Gabriel Brenescu said Trevor would intensify quickly and could develop into a category five system over the next two to three days.
"We have it at category two back early in the morning, 9:00am or so, and then increasing or strengthening to upper categories — three, four, even a category five is possible," he said.
"Once in the open waters the system will expand, it will grow in size ... it's unusual for the Gulf of Carpentaria but it'll be such a big system and such a strong system."
Winds, rain intensifying
Overnight, Trevor lashed communities on Queensland's Cape York with powerful gusts and heavy rain.
BOM said wind gusts higher than 130 kilometres per hour could develop between the Cape York towns of Weipa and Aurukun today as the system strengthened.
Falls of more than 173 millimetres were recorded at RAAF Base Scherger, near Weipa.
Weipa Town Authority chairman Michael Rowland said he had not heard any reports of damage, but the weather was starting to noticeably escalate.
"You can see the increase in wind gusts… and the rain is horizontal ... it's starting to intensify," he said.
Mr Rowland said residents were staying indoors "to ride it out".
"Schools are closed and mining operations closed down. We had cyclone Owen and Penny, and a lot of trees were removed ... we're optimistic."
Trevor is expected to move in a south-westerly direction towards the Northern Territory over the coming days with authorities there now evacuating residents at Groote Eylandt and the coastal community of Numbulwar.
Lockhart River Mayor Wayne Butcher said his house was the only one to be damaged by the cyclone.
"Structural damage has been pretty minimum, which we're pretty surprised with, a lot of trees went down and a lot of trees have basically got no leaf or no bark standing on it," Mr Butcher said.
"The ironic part of it is the only roof that was damaged was the mayor's."
Mr Butcher said it was a rough night as the cyclone passed south of the town.
"I've got a two-storey house, so I had rain coming in through the windows horizontally and then I had a leaking vertically and I moved downstairs and it eventually came through the floor."
Crews from Ergon Energy are conducting emergency network repairs to restore power to Lockhart River where about 100 homes have lost power. About 180 homes are without power at Aurukun.
The heavy rainfall and gale force winds have also impacted other parts of Far North Queensland with a land slip at Barron Gorge bringing down trees and boulders.
Douglas Shire Council have warned residents not to cross flooded roads and bridges after rapid river and creek rises in the last 24 hours.