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Community calls for shelter as cyclone looms

Keira Jenkins -

One of Queensland's largest Indigenous communities has been forced to take shelter from severe Tropical Cyclone Kirrily in their own homes, prompting calls for an evacuation centre.

Palm Island has bunkered down, evacuating vulnerable residents and closing the local school as people brace for the category three system's impact on Thursday night.

The 4000-strong community is no stranger to natural disasters this time of year, with Queensland's cyclone season typically peaking in February and March.

However, Palm Island still does not have a cyclone shelter.

Palm Island Aboriginal Council CEO Michael Bissell has called for state and federal government support for an evacuation centre as his community takes cover in their own homes.

"We don't have a cyclone shelter on the island and we look forward to support from the state government and the federal government to get that," he told AAP.

"We have several disasters a year in the north and we need to be able to look after our communities as best as possible so we look forward to that support in the future."

Mr Bissell said they had been door knocking areas to ensure they were safe ahead of Kirrily's arrival with no shelter at their disposal.

"For people living outside the eight main suburbs (on the island) ... if they are on the coast go and shelter with family and friends," he said.

"We don't have a cyclone shelter or a place of refuge on the island so it's door knocking those suburbs down the south end of the island - they will be the most exposed to the expected southerly winds."

Cyclone Kirrily was upgraded to a category two system on Thursday morning but just five hours later it had reached category three status.

It is expected to cross the coast near Townsville on Thursday night.

Mr Bissell said the weather was already "pretty messy" on Palm Island, which is 65km off the coast north of Townsville.

Destructive winds are expected to lash the north as Kirrily crosses the coast.

"Our ground is very wet, we've had strong rain for a week or more," Mr Bissell said.

"If we do get some decent winds then we will lose trees.

"If we do get these winds of 100km/h to 150km/h then that certainly creates a lot of risk for property and of course life."

Mr Bissell was confident in the community's preparations for Cyclone Kirrily, saying most people had heeded the warnings.

The island's ferry service has been cancelled, as were plans for a community Survival Day event on Friday.

The community has also been urged to conserve water as the island's treatment plant suffered an electrical fault.

"We're always a bit nervous, cyclones are hard to predict," Mr Bissell said.

"We just want to make sure we're prepared to deal during the event but really push on recovery and supporting people very quickly post the event too."

Keira Jenkins - AAP


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