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Powerful cyclone bears down on western Australia

Published on Dec 30, 2013 2:51 PM
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Ships waiting to be loaded with iron ore are seen at Port Hedland in the Pilbara region of Western Australia on Dec 3, 2013. A powerful cyclone packing expected winds of more than 200 kilometres an hour was threatening Australia's west coast on Monday, forcing towns into lockdown and shutting iron ore operations. -- FILE PHOTO: REUTERS

SYDNEY (AFP) - A powerful cyclone packing expected winds of more than 200 kilometres an hour was threatening Australia's west coast on Monday, forcing towns into lockdown and shutting iron ore operations.

A red alert was issued for Port Hedland and South Hedland on Western Australia state's resource-rich but sparsely-populated Pilbara coast as the category three cyclone intensified offshore, forcing residents to batten down.

"This is a powerful system," Neil Bennett, a spokesman for the Cyclone Warning Centre in Perth told AFP, saying that winds were already building around Port Hedland to about 70km/h.

"Right around the eye (of the storm) we could see gusts of 200 kilometres or more."

 
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