Australia

Thousands of NT residents evacuated as Cyclone Trevor looms

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Evacuations of residents from Northern Territory communities in the path of tropical Cyclone Trevor, expected to arrive today with destructive winds and storms, have stopped.

Evacuations of communities in the path of a cyclone barrelling down on the Northern Territory have ceased as authorities urge remaining residents to prepare for flooding and destructive winds.

Cyclone Trevor is expected to become a category four tropical cyclone pushing gale-force winds, rain and tidal surges 300 kilometres out from its core by late Friday, the Bureau of Meteorology says.

However, meteorologist Todd Smith warned Trevor had made some unusual moves in the past 24 hours and the system could change direction or surge to category five.

NASA satellite photo of Cyclone Trevor system.
A satellite photo shows the fury of Cyclone Trevor as it approaches Top End communities. (AAP)
AAP

"Regardless of whether it's category five or category four it's still a very dangerous system," he told reporters in Darwin on Friday.

Head of NT Emergency Services Jason Collins said anyone remaining in Trevor's path needs to have supplies to last at least three days, take shelter and stay away from waterways.

"Turn around, don't drown, we may not be there to save you," he told reporters in Darwin late on Friday.

"Emergency services are stretched."

Dangerous waves, tides and flooding will precede the destructive core which is expected to have wind gusts of up to 275 kmh when it smashes into the mainland between Groote Eylant and the NT-Queensland border on Saturday.

Anxious residents worried about their homes and pets were evacuated by road and on Australia Defence Force cargo planes from Borroloola, Numbulwar, Groote Eylandt and other Indigenous communities.

"We've used buses, vehicles, ferries, planes, helicopters and anything else in between we can get out hands on," police regional controller Travis Wurst said.

They have begun arriving in Darwin and Katherine where sleeping facilities including tent cities have been set up.

It is the largest evacuation prior to a cyclone in the territory's history and largest type of any evacuation since Cyclone Tracy in 1974.

The severity and threat of the storm, as well as complications with the remoteness of the area, led to the decision to evacuate, Chief Minister Michael Gunner said on Thursday.

Trevor left behind trail of destruction in Queensland's Cape York peninsula earlier this week, uprooting trees, causing flooding and roof damage, closing schools and roads, and downing power lines.

It is gathering intensity again as it moves over the hot waters in the Gulf.

Very destructive winds, with gusts of over 260 kmh, heavy rainfall and a dangerous storm tide are expected near the cyclone centre as it approaches and crosses the coast, said the bureau's Todd Smith.

Mr Smith has not ruled out the cyclone strengthening to a category five with winds of more than 300 kmh.

Mayor Dereck Walpo told AAP that despite the ongoing rain and lack of electricity, people were in "high spirits" and the majority of buildings had come through the cyclone undamaged.

"The worst has come on gone and everyone has a smile on their dial," he said.

Gales are expected on Groote Eylandt and Mornington and Sweers Islands from Friday afternoon and on the mainland coast between Cape Shield in the Northern Territory and Burketown in Queensland on Friday night.

The gales will move into the eastern Carpentaria and northern Barkly districts and northwest Gulf country on Saturday morning.

Inland locations likely to be impacted by wild winds and rain include Doomadgee, Brunette Downs, Creswell Downs, Cape Crawford, Robinson River and Wollogorang.

ADF aircraft move in 

Australian Defence Force Hercules' aircraft are being used to transport people, who have begun arriving in Darwin and Katherine where indoor sleeping facilities are being set up at local showgrounds.

That includes creating barriers to ensure Indigenous cultural protocols are followed and people are spoken to in local languages.

"We've used buses, vehicles, ferries, planes, helicopters and anything else in between we can get out hands on," police regional controller Travis Wurst said.

About 600 out of Groote Eyland's population of 2800 have been evacuated but authorities are now focusing on Borroloola, with a population of 900.

The evacuations are starting with the most vulnerable and people who are not evacuated in time will be moved into emergency shelters.

"We have the capacity and capability to look after them as long as we need to, until water and power are safe again and houses are habitable again," Mr Gunner said.

Trail of destruction

Trevor left behind trail of destruction in Queensland's Cape York peninsula earlier this week, uprooting trees, caused flooding and roof damage, closed schools and roads and downed power lines.

Trevor lashed the Aurukun community overnight and some 180 homes remain without power on Thursday as residents began cleaning up.

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