Salvation Army Australia has called on the country to unite in prayer as cyclone Yasi rips through the already flood-ridden state of Queensland.
"We want to pray for safety, for perseverance and togetherness in what will be an extremely difficult time for so many people," said Captain Meaghan Gallagher.
Cyclone Yasi crossed the coast of the northeastern state at midnight local time, or Wednesday 6 a.m. ET, causing carnage as heavy rain and winds up to 189mph tore roofs off houses and knocked down power poles and trees, cutting power across the state's north. The state's weather bureau reported rainfall of more than 13 inches in affected towns.
The unprecedented storm was listed by the Bureau of Meteorology as a Category 5, the highest on the Australian classification system as it hit the coast, but has weakened since, downgrading to Category 4 at 3 a.m. Thursday local time and Category 3 at 5 a.m. as it began to move further inland.
The Salvation Army was already working to assist victims of the January flood crisis that affected over 75 percent of the state, when evacuation warnings were first issued.
Forty-seven clients from the Christian charity's homeless facility in Cairns were evacuated to a nearby primary school due to the threat of surging water.
Just before the cyclone was predicted to hit, Hillsong Church tweeted,"Our hearts, thoughts and prayers are with the people of Queensland tonight…stay safe and strong."
Earlier, the Queensland state premier, Anna Bligh, warned residents would face "nothing else this nation has ever seen."
"It's going to be a tough 24 hours, for some it's going to be a tough couple of days," she said.