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Locals hit surf as monster storm slams Queensland

March 30, 2017 Headline News No Comments Email Email

As Cyclone Debbie roared into the Whitsunday Coast, battering resorts with huge waves and hurricane-force winds that sent tourists running for cover, Queensland authorities were horrified to hear that some locals had responded to the emergency by hitting the waves and going surfing in the cyclone’s wake.

“I cannot believe this sort of behaviour,” a shocked Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told ABC News. To go out into the treacherous surf was putting lives at risk, she said.

Cyclone Debbie, the biggest cyclone to hit Queensland since Cyclone Yasi in 2014, may end up costing hundreds of millions in lost tourism revenue. News media interviewed stricken tourists who had not eaten for 24 hours. Travellers stranded on Daydream Island were reported at one point to have run out of water as dangerous weather conditions cut links to the mainland.

Houses were torn to pieces and some locals on Airlie Beach admitted they were terrified, comparing the storm to a bomb going off.

More than 63,000 homes were reported to be without power yesterday, including in Mackay, Sarina, Airlie Beach and Proserpine. Structural damage was reported across the Whitsundays and Shute Harbour at Airlie Beach, gateway to the Whitsundays, was severely damaged. Hamilton Island was battered but the airport was open and operating this morning.

Queensland Tourism Industry Council chief Daniel Gschwind warned that images of the devastation could deter potential visitors and give the incorrect impression that all of Queensland had been affected and was closed.

Chief executive of the Tourism and Transport Forum, Margy Osmond, said separate, clear marketing was particularly important for the Queensland tourism industry following the devastating cyclone.

“The Whitsundays are an integral part of Queensland’s, and Australia’s, national tourism product, and it is important that as the region returns to normal – as it will – this message is conveyed clearly and broadly, to entice visitors back as soon as possible,” Osmond said.

“But there is also the immediate need to communicate clearly to those with existing holiday bookings, as well as those considering holidays, that the damage is confined to one area, and that the rest of Queensland is still very much open for business.”

Written by Peter Needham

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