Thousands have been evacuated as Category 4 Cyclone Debbie nears the Queensland coastline, and in the past half hour the state’s Police Service has urged people to please share a message ordering those in red or green zones of the Mackay Regional Council – a popular South African expat destination – to leave their homes immediately and seek safe shelter. See full message below. (Update: it is now too late to evacuate and people have been asked to bunker down.)

The window of opportunity to evacuate is small and therefore it is urgent, as safety experts are concerned there will be a tidal surge. Rescue services will be unable to reach these people during the worst of the storm.

Cyclone Debbie is expected to hit the north Queensland coast before 10am local time on Tuesday. Winds of over 260 km/hour are predicted, and the cyclone is expected to be the strongest since 2011.

The State Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has warned that those residents in low-lying areas of Mackay, where many South African expats live, need to act now to protect themselves. Bowen is expected to be hit very badly.

While residents – up to 30,000 – have taken the evacuation order seriously, they have also reacted with typical Queensland humour… as seen in some of the tweets below. Several photos of a stunning sunset in Queensland on Monday, on the eve of the storm, have also been shared on social media… as well as that of a kite surfer taking advantage of the winds at sea.

Watch Videos about Cycle Debbie:

#townsville #thisistownsville No filter needed strand 26/03/2017 #cyclonedebbie

A post shared by david flanagan (@dave_reddog) on