Cyclone Elsa hits northwest Australia and misses the iron ore export hub

SYDNEY (Reuters) – A tropical cyclone hit Australia’s northwest coast as a Category 5 storm, setting new wind speed records but largely avoiding populated areas including the world’s largest iron ore export hub in Port Hedland, authorities said on Friday. . .

Hurricane Elsa made landfall early Friday morning at the highest intensity rating on a scale of 1 to 5 and then moved inland as emergency crews urged many remote communities along the storm’s path to seek shelter and stay indoors.

“Port Hedland… has escaped the brunt of the hurricane at this point. Overnight, we haven’t had any calls for help,” Western Australian State Emergency Services Superintendent Peter Sutton told ABC Television. “So it appears that the larger populated areas have already been spared.”

But Sutton said there were unconfirmed reports of “significant damage” in some outlying towns and that an aerial survey would be conducted as soon as possible.

Port Hedland, used by BHP Group (BHP.AX), Fortescue (FMG.AX) and billionaire Gina Rinehart Hancock Prospecting, was due to reopen at 11am (0300GMT) after it was deemed safe by the operator, the Pilbara Ports Authority.

The operator said in a statement that it is in contact with terminal and ship operators to plan for the resumption of shipping.

The port was closed on Thursday morning after authorities began disinfecting the docks the day before.

The Met Office said Elsa set a new ten-minute Australian sustained wind speed record of 218 kph (135 mph) on Pedot Island, about 40 km offshore, surpassing Hurricane George’s 194 km at the same location. in 2007.

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The Met Office downgraded the storm to a category three system early Friday, but officials warned it could still gather wind gusts of around 170 kilometers per hour (106 mph).

“As it moves inland and the sun rises, we can expect it to remain an intense tropical cyclone,” said Schnaug Gamble, director of hazard response for the Met Office.

Ilsa is expected to weaken to a tropical low overnight and move into southern parts of the Northern Territory.

Heavy rains are expected in some areas, which may lead to flash floods. Damaging winds could batter the remote inland mining town of Telfer, where Newcrest Mining (NCM.AX) operates a flying gold and copper mine.

(Reporting by Ringo Jose in Sydney) Editing by Shri Navaratnam

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