SYDNEY Jan 12 Tropical cyclone Heidi hit
the west Australian coast early on Thursday packing winds up to
120 kilometres per hour, forcing seaside residents to flee
rising tidewaters and closing the world's biggest iron ore
"We're certainly feeling the brunt of Cyclone Heidi as she
crosses the coast," Kelly Howlett, mayor of the town of Port
Hedland told local media.
"She's certainly packing a little punch at the moment,"
Heidi made landfall around 4.30 am local time (2030 GMT),
according to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.
The bureau said winds of up to 130 kilometres per hour had
been whipping along the coast overnight, warning gusts of up to
150 kilometres per hour were possible.
Up to 250 millimetres (9.8 inches) of rain was also possible
across central and eastern parts of the Pilbara iron belt, where
most of Australia's iron ore mining occurs, it said.
A dangerous storm tide was also predicted for coastal areas
and residents near the coast were warned to seek emergency
shelter further inland.
Ports serving the enormous iron ore mines of northwest
Australia began closing on Tuesday night as the storm swept
across the Indian Ocean toward a stretch of coast where nearly
two-thirds of the world's seaborne-traded iron ore is shipped.
Port Hedland, the region's largest iron ore port, exporting
around 240 million tonnes of the steel-making commodity a year,
has been closed to traffic until the storm passes.
Australia's second and third biggest iron ore miners, BHP
Billiton and Fortescue Metals Group, both
export through Port Hedland.
Australia's biggest iron ore miner and the world's
second-largest, Rio Tinto, also halted all loading at
Dampier and Cape Lambert ports, 250 kms south of Port Hedland.
Rio Tinto ships around 225 millions tonnes a year from these
Fortescue exports about 55 million tonnes a year and BHP
Billiton ships around 155 million tonnes from the Pilbara, which
employs around 40,000 in the mining industry.
Australia's largest oil and gas firm, Woodside Petroleum
, also took precautions against the storm by shutting
production from several offshore fields.
Heidi is rated a category two cyclone, the second lowest
ranking on a scale of one to five and meteorologists expect
Heidi to start to weaken over the next few hours as more of the
storm crosses land.
Tropical cyclones and temporary shutdowns are a normal part
of Australian summers, but an especially stormy season can have
major impacts, such as when cyclones and flooding swamped the
coal-mining industry in the country's northeast a year ago.
The bureau warned in October the northwestern region was
facing a 65 percent chance of being hit by more than seven
cyclones during the November to April tropical storm season.