Australia iron ore hub braces for strongest cyclone in a decade | Inquirer News

Australia iron ore hub braces for strongest cyclone in a decade

/ 04:00 PM April 13, 2023

Ships waiting to be loaded with iron ore are seen at the Fortescue loading dock located at Port Hedland

FILE PHOTO: Ships waiting to be loaded with iron ore are seen at the Fortescue loading dock located at Port Hedland, in the Pilbara region of Western Australia December 3, 2013. REUTERS/David Gray/

SYDNEY — Australia’s northwest region, home to the world’s largest iron ore export hub, was bracing on Thursday for the area’s most powerful tropical cyclone in a decade, as a major port closed and residents rushed to stock up on essential supplies.

Cyclone Ilsa, located about 250 km off (155 miles) Australia’s coast in the Indian Ocean, was on Thursday morning upgraded to a category four storm.


It was expected to reach the highest level, category five, before making landfall late on Thursday or early on Friday with winds of up to 285 km per hour (177 mph), the Bureau of Meteorology said.


“They’ve got a lot of strength in them, the ability to not only destroy trees and knock down power lines but lift up those loose items in the yard, including trailers and caravans,” meteorologist Miriam Bradbury told ABC television.

The weather bureau said in its latest update that Ilsa could impact a 600 km sparsely populated stretch from just north of Port Hedland eastwards to just south of tourist town Broome.

Port Hedland’s port, the world’s biggest iron ore export point, closed on Thursday morning after the port authority began clearing berths a day earlier.

The port is used by BHP Group, Fortescue and billionaire Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting. Rio Tinto exports out of the Port of Dampier, to the west of Port Hedland.

The weather bureau said Port Hedland may be spared by “the very destructive core of Ilsa” but winds with gusts of up to 155 km per hour could still lash the mining town.

It will be the strongest system to hit the country’s far northwest region since Cyclone Christine crossed the coast in December 2013, weather bureau forecaster Jessica Lingard said.


BHP said it was closely tracking the cyclone but its mining and rail operations were continuing.

A Fortescue spokesperson said it had suspended shipping operations and non-essential travel to the port but it did not expect any significant impact to operations at this stage.

Many of the region’s mines are located hundreds of kilometers inland.

A yellow alert, which orders residents to be ready to shelter from a cyclone, was issued for several remote towns. The alert covered Port Hedland, where the majority of the 15,000 residents are employees of mining companies.

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TAGS: Australia, Cyclone, world news

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