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Cyclone gathers strength off Australia's west coast

Published on Jan 10, 2013 7:30 AM

CANBERRA (REUTERS) - Australia's first cyclone of the storm season is intensifying off the country's northwest and is expected to start affecting coastal areas in mining powerhouse Western Australia state as soon as Friday, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology said.

Cyclone Narelle, now a category three storm with winds of up to 165 kmh, was expected to gather strength and possibly be upgraded to a category four cyclone by Thursday afternoon.

The storm was moving southwest towards Australia's Pilbara coast, with winds of up to 100 kph to be felt by Friday morning, according to the weather bureau, potentially causing disruptions to iron ore mining and oil production.

Warming waters off Australia are prone to lead to cyclones between December and April. Cyclones interrupted mining operations last January.

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