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Australian cyclone crossing Western Australian coast
by Staff Writers
Sydney (AFP) Feb 27, 2013

Madagascar cyclone death toll climbs to 23
Antananarivo (AFP) Feb 26, 2013 - The death toll from tropical cyclone Haruna and heavy rains that have battered Madagascar has risen to 23 with 16 people missing, the national disaster management agency said on Tuesday.

The cyclone struck on Friday morning in the southwest region of the Indian Ocean island.

Latest figures showed that at least 84 people had been injured and nearly 23,000 others affected.

The cyclone brought heavy rains and strong gusts of wind reaching speeds of 200 kmh (125 mph).

The category 2 cyclone destroyed nearly 1,500 houses, leaving almost 10,000 people homeless, and flooded more than 6,000 hectares of crops.

A tropical cyclone hit Australia's resource-rich northwest coast Wednesday, bringing winds of up to 165 kilometres (102 miles) an hour as it crossed the shore near the tiny community of Pardoo.

Severe tropical cyclone Rusty had been sitting offshore for several days, slowly intensifying as it edged towards the Pilbara coast and bringing heavy rain and gale-force winds to the iron ore region.

"It is in the process of crossing," Neil Bennett from Australia's Bureau of Meteorology told AFP just after 0700 GMT, adding it was too soon to say whether it had caused any damage.

"Wind gusts in excess of 165 kilometre an hour are in that area."

Bennett said the storm had been downgraded from a category 4 storm, just one notch short of the top category, to a category 3.

The bureau had expected Rusty to make landfall close to Port Hedland, 1,300 kilometres (800 miles) north of Perth, but Bennett said the major iron ore port appeared to have escaped the full brunt of the storm.

"It looks as if Hedland has dodged the bullet, so to speak, because the worst of the winds are away from Hedland," he said.

"Hedland though has been experiencing a constant period of gale-force winds for over 36 hours now. And that's unpredecented (for that area)."

While the storm has been downgraded, its eye has also contracted from being about 80 kilometres wide on Tuesday to about 50 kilometres by the time it crossed land.

Authorities had warned residents to move out of the storm's path or seek shelter. Resident Ian Badger said he was seeking refuge at the Pardoo Roadhouse, about 120 kilometres from Port Hedland.

"It's just a matter of hanging on," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

"The amount of water that's around is a bit worrying. The ground is very sodden, very soft. As soon as you get a get a bit of strong wind, trees start going over."

The weather bureau expects the cyclone to move slowly in a south-southeasterly direction, gradually downgrading to a category 1 storm by Thursday afternoon and a tropical low the following day.

Australia's major iron ore export ports have been shut for several days anticipating Rusty's approach. Hundreds of people have been forced to evacuate their homes in the sparsely populated but cyclone-prone area.

Global iron ore giants including BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals Group have all shut down or scaled back operations due to the storm.


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Australia's iron ore centre braces for Cyclone Rusty
Sydney (AFP) Feb 25, 2013
Australia's largest iron ore ports were shut down on Monday ahead of tropical cyclone Rusty which is building off the resource-rich west coast. The Bureau of Meteorology issued a cyclone warning stretching from Mardie, 1,200 kilometres (745 miles) north of the state capital Perth, to Cape Leveque in Western Australia's far north. It said the cyclone, which is a category 2 on the five-lev ... read more

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