Evacuations ordered as tropical cyclone nears Australia

By AFP   April 13, 2023 | 01:31 am PT
Evacuations ordered as tropical cyclone nears Australia
A storm seen from outer space. Illustration photo by Pexels
A powerful tropical cyclone hurtled towards Western Australia on Thursday, triggering a "red alert" emergency and evacuation orders as authorities warned violent winds could toss caravans, tear down trees and turn debris into "missiles".

Tropical Cyclone Ilsa gathered strength over the Indian Ocean and Port Hedland, one of the world's major iron ore-shipping hubs, was cleared of vessels in preparation.

The Bureau of Meteorology predicted the category five storm would bring a "severe impact" with gusts of up to 315 kilometres (200 miles) per hour, making it one of the most powerful cyclones to hit the state in a decade.

The storm was expected to make landfall on Thursday evening or Friday morning, landing somewhere between the coastal towns of Broome and Port Hedland -- about 17 hours' drive north of the state capital, Perth.

It is forecast to then move inland, with weather warnings in place for a vast but sparsely populated expanse stretching some 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) from the coast into the desert Outback.

The region is home to iron ore and gold mines, sprawling cattle ranches and Aboriginal communities.

The Bureau of Meteorology said the winds would be strong enough to tear down trees and powerlines, and could launch caravans and even trampolines.

Flash flooding was also a risk, the weather bureau said.

The state's Department of Fire and Emergency Services said it "cannot stress enough how extreme these conditions will be for those in the area".

Peter Carter, the mayor of Port Hedland, said the destructive winds could turn flying debris into "missiles in the air".

"That's what causes all the damage, that is what injures people," he told national broadcaster ABC. "Everyone is on edge."

Australian researchers have repeatedly warned that climate change amplifies the risk of natural disasters such as bushfires, floods and cyclones.

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