Proserpine hit hard: "Streets are flowing with water"
BOATS are being used to rescue people from homes in Proserpine with locals still sheltering from torrential rain in damaged buildings in the wake of Cyclone Debbie.
Leah Borghero, who runs the A & A Motel Proserpine, said she and her husband spent yesterday calming their terrified guests - many of them young international visitors - as Cyclone Debbie raged through the town.
She said it was only this morning they were able to see just how damaged the town is.
"Across the road, the roof is off and there is a rescue boat over there. I'd say they're getting someone out," she said.
"The streets are flowing with water and the rain is still bucketing down."
Mrs Borghero said she and her husband braved the storm three times to check on their guests, bringing towels to soak up water and comforting frightened and sometimes tearful tourists.
Late yesterday, they were able to connect guests' phones to the motel's generator so they could charge them and call their families.
"I'm a mother of six and if my child was out here in this, I'd want them to call and let them know I was OK," Mrs Borghero said.
She said they had no running water and no electricity and blocked roads meant it could be some time before power was restored.
"We're about to fire the generator now and boil the jugs so they can at least have a coffee," she said.
Mrs Borghero said their residence at the motel had flooded, with water through the roof upstairs and water in the downstairs area. She said the family was currently camped on the couch - one of the few dry places in their home.
"We had a lot of warning and a lot of preparation time before the cyclone came but it doesn't prepare you for today when you wake up.
"We weren't expecting blue skies but we were really hoping the rain would have stopped so we could get out and do things.
"But the rain is torrential and our big sign - a massive metal pole full of concrete - has come down and we can't even get out the back door.
"It's going to need a crane to lift it. There's a lot of damage out there."
Almost a dozen businesses along the main street have also suffered severe structural damage with reports of rooftops, fences and trees laying strewn across the area.
A moderate flood warning remains in place for the Proserpine River after 320mm fell in the catchment area in just 24 hours.
Whitsunday Council deputy mayor John Collins, who is in Proserpine, said it wasn't looking good for the town.
"It's not real good at the moment," he said.
"There's been a lot of damage and the rain is still coming down quite heavy. Half a dozen businesses on the main street have structural damage. We've also been isolated from the highway because of flooding."
Cr Collins said a disaster management meeting was being held this morning to assess the extent of the damage.
The Whitsunday Islands, Airlie Beach, Proserpine and Bowen bore the brunt of a category four Debbie packing 260km/h winds when it crossed the coast on Tuesday.
"I've just been advised that all the roads have been cut off around Bowen, Airlie Beach, Proserpine," the premier told ABC television on Wednesday.
"At the moment, not many reports of injury. But, having said that, we still know that a lot of people have lost communications, so we want to make sure that everyone is safe there."
As the sun rose on Wednesday, scenes of devastation began to be revealed.
On one stretch of sand at Airlie Beach three battered yachts lay on their sides. Homes were damaged and a number of roofs were seen lying in yards.
At the port of Shute Harbour, 10km from Airlie Beach, some 30 vessels were blown up on the rocks and pontoons were damaged, according to Whitsunday Regional Council mayor Andrew Willcox.
There's significant structural damage at Proserpine, southwest of Airlie Beach, and after an early morning drive through Bowen, further north, Mr Willcox lamented the damage to homes and businesses.
"It looks like a war zone," he said.