Cyclone in Coral Sea could threaten north Australia by Friday

SYDNEY, April 8 Tue Apr 8, 2014 2:34am EDT

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SYDNEY, April 8 (Reuters) - A tropical cyclone currently intensifying in the Coral Sea could threaten coastal communities in northern Australia by Friday, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology said on Tuesday.

Cyclone Ita, stalled 970km (600 miles) northeast of the Australian community of Cooktown on Tuesday, could strengthen to a category 4 capable of generating wind gusts up to 279 kms per hour by Friday morning after resuming a westward path, the government weather forecaster said.

The United Nations on Monday began deployments to the Solomon Islands after the then-tropical depression caused widespread flooding, killing at least 23 people and affecting another 50,000, according to the U.N. website.

Cyclones typically form near Australia between November and April and often disrupt mining activities on both the east and west coasts.

Cooktown lies 650 kms (400 miles) south of Australian bauxite deposits mined by Rio Tinto and 800 kms (500 miles) north of an abundance of coal export terminals and collieries in the Bowen Basin region. (Reporting by James Regan; Editing by Michael Urquhart)

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