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Australia cyclone hits mining, oil fields

by Staff Writers
Sydney (AFP) Feb 22, 2011
A tropical cyclone lashing Australia's northwest mining coast Tuesday damaged dozens of homes and forced the closure of offshore oil rigs and ports handling iron-ore exports, officials said.

Tropical Cyclone Carlos, measuring category two on a five-point scale, howled along Western Australia's Pilbara coast, shutting Port Hedland -- the nation's biggest iron-ore terminal -- and halting offshore oil drilling.

The companies BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto both have major iron-ore projects in the Pilbara region, and they said the wild weather had also forced the closure of rail and roads.

Woodside Petroleum, Australia's second-largest energy firm, froze production at its Enfield and Cossack Pioneer platforms, while Apache also halted work at its Stag and Van Gogh fields.

Mining towns including Karratha and Dampier were on red alert as Carlos battered the coast, bringing heavy rains and winds gusting in excess of 140 kilometres (87 miles) per hour, emergency officials said.

"There is a threat to lives and homes. You are in danger and need to act immediately," the Fire and Emergency Services Authority (FESA) warned residents, advising them to shelter in the safest part of their house.

Now in its sixth day, Carlos triggered a mini-tornado in Karratha overnight, ripping up roofs, felling power lines and damaging more than 40 homes.

"There's still some significant bits of debris still on the ground, mainly sections of the roof and parts of large air-conditioning units and that sort of stuff," said FESA spokesman Allen Gale.

"They are going to have to remain there until we can get a machine in to move it after the red alert has been lifted."

At least 30 homes were flooded when Carlos hit the remote northern city of Darwin last week before moving offshore and gathering power, just two weeks after top-level Cyclone Yasi smashed into the northeast tourist coast.

Yasi followed record flooding in northern Queensland state which inundated tens of thousands of homes and killed 35 people.

Australia's wild weather has been linked to an especially strong La Nina climate pattern, which traditionally brings cyclones and floods to the vast country.

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Australia cyclone weakens after hitting Darwin
Sydney (AFP) Feb 17, 2011
A tropical cyclone lashing northern Australia weakened to a low pressure system after crossing land near Darwin on Thursday, bringing wild winds and torrential rains. Carlos, a category one of five storm, was downgraded after making landfall overnight, toppling trees and power lines over roads and homes, and sparking flash flooding across the remote northern city. "The cyclone has weaken ... read more

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