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Cyclone Trevor prompts mass evacuation in Australia

File photo. Photograph:( Reuters )

AFP Cairns City QLD, Australia Mar 21, 2019, 06.05 PM (IST)

Authorities in northern Australia have declared a state of emergency and have asked for military help to evacuate communities in the path of a destructive cyclone that is set to further strengthen.

Northern Territory Police said Thursday Cyclone Trevor prompted the largest evacuation since Cyclone Tracy tore through the city of Darwin in 1974.

The storm hit small communities in northern Queensland on Wednesday, knocking out power and leaving some areas of the state isolated.

While Trevor is currently a Category 1 system, the Bureau of Meteorology said it will intensify quickly over the next two days.

Northern Territory Fire and Emergency Services incident controller Hege Burns told AFP they ramped up effort Thursday to evacuate residents from the island of Groote Eylandt.

"Local charter companies and AirNorth have been able to evacuate 220 of the island's 1,600 residents and the Australian Defence Force has now been called in to help."

"Emergency services are ensuring the most vulnerable residents are evacuated but those who have the means, we are allowing to get out on their own."

The Bureau of Meteorology is expecting the system to hit the coast again on Saturday as a severe tropical cyclone with sustained wind speeds of almost 200 kilometres (125 miles) per hour.

Northern Territory Manager Todd Smith said waters through the Gulf of Carpentaria are already dangerous.

"We can expect the system to hit somewhere between Groote Eylandt and Borroloola on Saturday, but gale force winds and rough seas are developing now."

Groote Eylandt warehouse supplier Brodie Elland was among those waiting to be evacuated.

"Two Australian Defence Force planes have just flown locals to Darwin and there's another plane heading off... but there's about 2,000 people needing to be evacuated in total," she said. 

"It's slowly starting to rain, and the winds are picking up so we're just trying to lock down as much as possible."

"Nothing really phases anyone up here, but there's definitely a sense of urgency as the day goes on because many people were here when Tracy hit so they're wanting to get out now before it gets worse," she added.

Ergon Energy's spokesperson Emma Oliveri has confirmed their crews are working in the north of Queensland after more than 400 homes lost power when Trevor crossed the state's coast.

Story highlights

Northern Territory Police said Thursday Cyclone Trevor prompted the largest evacuation since Cyclone Tracy tore through the city of Darwin in 1974.