Live updates: Category 4 cyclone Debbie strikes Australia

This live updates article has now finished - tune into the AM Show from 6am and online from 5am on Wednesday for the latest on Cyclone Debbie.

9:40pm: Some tourists are remarkably relaxed despite Cyclone Debbie turning their holiday into disaster.

"I think Debbie needs to take a chill pill," one said.

But the Bureau of Meteorology says people shouldn't kick back just yet - especially if you're in the eye of the cyclone, where it can seem calm.

"Do not venture outside if you find yourself in the eye of the cyclone - very destructive winds from a different direction could resume at any time," it said.

8:44pm: Roofs have been ripped off as Cyclone Debbie wreaks havoc in northern Queensland.

Major damage is feared at Proserpine, where one person has already been seriously injured by a collapsing wall.

It's still too difficult for emergency services to go out and there are fears for the safety of communities cut off and unable to communicate.

Holidayer Mat Garner told the Whitsunday Times the slow-moving system has caused "bloody mayhem" at Hamilton Island, where winds reached more than 260km/h.

8:03pm: A bedraggled cockatoo, knocked from its perch and huddled among broken branches on the ground, has been rescued by a Good Samaritan.

Alix Sweeney, a photographer for the Townsville Bulletin, swept the bird to safety when she saw it during a break in the weather.

"There was a whole group of cockatoos sitting way up in the trees just clinging on during the gale-force winds," she said.

The bird will be picked up by a wildlife carer later, the Townsville Bulletin reports.

7:49pm: Cyclone Debbie is likely to weaken to a category 1 storm before dawn on Wednesday (local time), according to meteorologists.

High winds are expected to continue for as many as 10 hours before quickly weakening.

Residents are warned the danger isn't over yet and people should still stay indoors.

6:43pm: Facebook has initiated its 'Safety Check' feature for those affected by the cyclone.

It allows people in the affected area to mark themselves as safe, as a way of reassuring their friends and family.

A man has been seriously injured by a falling wall in Proserpine and Police Commissioner Ian Stewart said more reports of injuries or death are to be expected.

"This is a very destructive storm and the public and community of Queensland need to understand we're going to get lots of reports of damage," he said.

"Sadly, I think we will also recieve more reports of injuries, if not death, and we need to be prepared for that."

6:30pm: While north Queensland is continuing to be lashed by Cyclone Debbie, it's now been downgraded from a category 4 to 3.

It was earlier feared it would be upgraded to a category 5.

The system is expected to remain for several more hours and the damage so far is still being assessed.

People are still urged to stay inside both for their safety, and to keep roads clear for emergency services.

6:13pm: Cyclone Debbie has been declared a "catastrophe" by the Insurance Council of Australia.

Thousands of claims are anticipated in the wake of the destruction, chief executive Rob Whelan said.

"Insurers are already taking calls from policyholders, and many insurers have teams standing by to enter the impact zone, assess claims and deliver assistance to their customers."

It's estimated the cost of the damage will be in the billions.

Queensland Australia Cyclone Debbie

5:53pm: More than 45,000 homes are without power after Cyclone Debbie made landfall in Queensland, with Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk begging residents to stay indoors.

"This is a dangerous cyclone. People must stay indoors. Please don't go outside," she said in a press conference.

Emergency services are unable to take to the road due to the storm, but people can still call for help and get advice over the phone.

5:46pm: It's been three hours since the powerful storm system arrived with terrifying force, but the danger isn't over yet.

More than 200mm of rain has been dumped in just an hour, with winds whipping to up to 260km/h and massive seas.

The slow-moving storm system is still progressing, ripping trees from the ground, bringing down power lines and breaking yachts from their moorings.

There is one consolation - Debbie arrived late, and the delay meant it didn't coincide with high tide.

Cyclone Debbie strong winds and rain lash Airlie Beach (AAP)
Strong winds and rain lash Airlie Beach (AAP)

5:21pm: The eye of the cyclone is right over Airlie Beach now.

While it means calmer weather for those right in the centre of it, people should still stay inside, Queensland police said.

4:43pm: Despite Debbie being the biggest and most powerful storm in the last six years, not everyone has locked up and left.

Kiwi couple Angela and Evan, who live on Hamilton Island, have been calmly keeping watch on their shop, which is located in the 'white zone', guitar in hand.

Meanwhile their house is a no-go, in the 'red zone'.

Even then, they say they've lived through it before - when the last storm passed through, they lived in a caravan.

"[We're a] little bit anxious, little bit sad for all the plants and the beautiful beaches, and all the people who live in lowlying areas," Evan said.

Cyclone Debbie Evan and Angela (Newshub.)
Evan and Angela (Newshub.)

4:17pm: Residents were warned to evacuate on Monday or they might miss their chance, leaving mainly journalists foolhardy - or foolish - enough to venture out into the storm.

The intense wind gusts have forced the rain horizontally, creating "rain bullets".

"Even the trees are leaning a fair way back, the powerlines… are leaning over out on an acute angle, which tells me any more wind on that could bring those lines down," 7 News' Paul Burr told Newshub, from Bowen.

Meteorologists warn it's only expected to get worse.

Cyclone Debbie 7 News reporter Paul Burr (supplied)
7 News reporter Paul Burr (supplied)

4:02pm: It's not just people struggling in this storm - a rainbow lorikeet in Daydream Island was seen holding onto a branch for dear life.

While Alexis Kolsky, who shared the video, was safely inside, the same couldn't be said for the little bird.

Soon after the video was filmed it had had enough and fled, Ms Kolsky said - hopefully somewhere more sheltered.

3:49pm: A category 4 cyclone battering Australia's northern Queensland coast has prompted wide-scale evacuations.

Video posted of a yacht club on Hamilton Island shows the force of the gusts blasting the region, reaching more than 260km/h.

Around 25,000 people have been evacuated so far, with the majority of evacuations taking place on Monday.