Cyclone brushes eastern Australia before heading back to sea

SYDNEY (REUTERS) - Meteorologists were on Monday monitoring a slow-moving cyclone that has intensified off the east coast of Australia, but said it was unlikely to affect a key mining and commodity export district.

Cyclone Hadi was moving in an east-southeaster direction at about 4 km per hour at 0200 GMT (10am Singapore time) and should develop a northeasterly track during the day, remaining well off the coast, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.

Strong winds had eased along the coastline, where ports handle much of the 150 million tonnes of coal mined annually in the Bowen Basin, as well as cargoes of base metals, livestock and agricultural goods, the bureau said.

"Further gradual easing of winds is expected throughout today as the cyclone moves away," the weather agency said.

A spokeswoman for the Port of Townsville said operations had returned to normal on Monday after taking preliminary precautions against the storm over the weekend.

"Everything is running normally," she said.

A second cyclone, named Gillian, was located 95 kms southwest of the northeastern tip of Australia - some 1,000 km from the Bowen Basin and a major bauxite mining region - and moving parallel to the coastline, according to the bureau.

Little intensification was likely Monday, but the storm was expected to slowly strengthen Tuesday as it moved away from the district.

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