Cyclone Seroja slams into Western Australia

The category 2 cyclone was rapidly moving south east and could reach category 3 severity before it makes landfall, the Bureau of Meteorology said. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM YOUTUBE

MELBOURNE (REUTERS) - Tropical cyclone Seroja made landfall in Western Australia yesterday, with emergency services receiving calls for help and reports of property damage as the Category 3 storm wreaked havoc in coastal areas.

A red alert was broadened to several towns ahead of the cyclone's arrival, with the authorities warning people to immediately take shelter given the high winds and the prospect of coastal flooding.

"There is a possible threat to lives and homes as a cyclone is approaching the area. You need to take action and get ready to shelter from a cyclone," the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) said in a bulletin.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that residents had barricaded themselves in cupboards and bathrooms and unconfirmed social media posts claimed that the cyclone had claimed whole buildings. Seroja was moving south-east at about 55kmh.

Kalbarri and Geraldton were facing the brunt of the destructive winds, which were felt as far inland as a line from Dalwallinu to Paynes Find, including Morawa.

Heavy rain was projected along the cyclone's track.

The cyclone, which was upgraded in severity to Category 3 yesterday, was likely to weaken to Category 2 in severity as it moved further inland, the Bureau of Meteorology said.

The Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale ranks storms on a scale of one to five, with Category 3 indicating a weather system that is likely to cause death and destruction with wind speeds of 178-208kmh.

Officials were braced for a high degree of damage to buildings in the area, the state emergency services minister said on Saturday, given buildings were not constructed to withstand such strong winds in a region that is typically too far south to fall into the path of cyclones.

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Tropical cyclone Seroja strengthened off Western Australia on Sunday (April 11), with emergency services opening shelters in preparation for high winds and coastal flooding later in the evening.

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