THE Australian Defence Force will today deploy a taskforce to "save human life" and "alleviate human suffering" in support of disaster crews across North Queensland ahead of Tropical Cyclone Debbie.
Townsville's 3rd Brigade commander Brigadier Chris Field, who heads 3000 troops, said diggers will today be tasked to the north's main population centres of Rockhampton, Mackay, Ayr, Townsville, Bowen and Charters Towers.
"We know North Queenslanders are already very resilient and we'll help build on that resilience,'' Brigadier Field said.
"The ADF taskforce response to Tropical Cyclone Debbie is to save human life, alleviate human suffering and prevent loss or damage to property,'' Brigadier Field said.
"This will be as required and to support local and state services. It will be for a finite time in the recovery phase.
"We will focus on the big picture. We don't want to be taking work away from local trades and businesses. And whatever we do will be in support of other disaster response efforts."
CYCLONE DEBBIE: Special coverage
Townsville Bureau of Meteorology officer Doug Fraser said 100km/h winds would be felt from Cardwell to the Whitsundays by early Tuesday.
Townsville, population 190,000, was likely to feel the brunt of category-three, possibly category-four winds, as the eye of Cyclone Debbie hits the coast near Ayr about 11am Tuesday, he said.
He said the extremely dangerous and very destructive core of the cyclone could be between 50km and 150km wide.
"That means it could take up to an hour for the cyclone to pass over the coast before it heads inland.
"Many get caught out if they go out in the dead calm of the eye of the cyclone before it crosses over and the winds come from a different direction. That's incredibly dangerous."
Airlie Beach, Proserpine and the Whitsundays are likely to experience the worst impact of the category-four cyclone, packing 280km/winds, on the more intense southern side of the monster system.
Mr Fraser said "worst-case scenario" was the cyclone accelerating and hitting the coast on top of the high tide with a 4m-high tsunami-like storm surge on Tuesday at 9am.
Townsville Mayor Jenny Hill, chair of the local disaster management group, told a briefing this morning there was a "level of complacency" in the city.
"Hopefully that attitude will change as locals see the weather change,'' she said.
"It's our job to make sure everyone is prepared.''
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