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Australian cyclone intensifies as it approaches iron ore belt

Published on Jan 11, 2013 6:46 AM

SYDNEY (REUTERS) - A cyclone approaching Australia's north-west coast that forced miners to shut down key iron ore export terminals and offshore oilfields has intensified into a category four storm, the second-highest level, and will strengthen over the weekend.

The Bureau of Meteorology said wind gusts of 100kph are expected to develop along the coastline on Friday, before strengthening to as much as 250kph near the cyclone's centre over the weekend.

Cyclone Narelle is not expected to make landfall in Western Australia, but authorities warned residents in coastal towns it will still be extremely dangerous.

The first cyclone of the Australian season was some 515km offshore of the coastal town of Karratha, an oil and mining services hub used by Woodside Petroleum, Apache Corp, CITIC Pacific, Rio Tinto, Shell and others.

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