Winds of up to 100 kph lash Australia's west coast

Gale force winds of up to 100 kph (62 mph) lashed Australia's remote northwestern coast Thursday as residents braced for tropical Cyclone Glend, the sixth cyclone to menace the region since November.

Heavy rains pelted the Pilbara region of Western Australia state as residents battened down for the storm, a severe category four cyclone heading toward the coastal mining town of Karratha, about 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) north of the state capital, Perth.

"We are asking people to stay indoors and to seek shelter," said Jim Cahill, an operations manager with the Fire and Emergency Services Authority of Western Australia.

"The cyclone is basically very close and there are extreme winds and a lot of danger. If people haven't evacuated by now, it's probably a bit late," he said.

Danielle Nazarri, the president of the local Roebourne Shire, said the storm was traveling faster than first expected and would likely hit the coast near Karratha on Thursday afternoon.

"I have a feeling that we're going to get a bit more of a walloping than we first anticipated," she told Sky News. "I think people will start to perhaps think a little more carefully about moving indoors."

Glenda was downgraded from a maximum category five storm to category four late Wednesday, but was still expected to pack winds of up to 250 kph (155 mph) and wreak havoc along Australia's Pilbara coastline, home to few major towns but many huge mining complexes including major iron ore and diamond mines.

Around 160 people have already been evacuated from their homes in case of flooding and are taking shelter at a local college, according to Department of Community Development spokesman Damien Miles.

About 14,000 people live in Karratha, and another 1,200 live in nearby Dampier, where one of northwestern Australia's major iron ore ports shut down operations Wednesday in preparation for the storm.

Dampier harbormaster Vic Justice said seven ships in the port were sent out to sea along with a further 12 that had been anchored offshore, he said, reports the AP.


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