Northeastern Australia braces for cyclones

Northern and eastern parts of Australia were battening down the hatches Thursday in preparation for two separate cyclones forecast to hit coastal areas.

AFP| Updated: Feb 19, 2015, 11:14 AM IST

Sydney: Northern and eastern parts of Australia were battening down the hatches Thursday in preparation for two separate cyclones forecast to hit coastal areas.

Tropical Cyclone Lam, currently a category three storm, was tracking towards the sparsely-populated Northern Territory Aboriginal communities of Milingimbi and Gapuwiyak, with landfall expected on Thursday evening or Friday morning.

Further south, Tropical Cyclone Marcia, currently a two category tempest, was heading to the central Queensland coast and was expected to hit on Friday near the town of Rockhampton, some 635 kilometres (390 miles) north of Brisbane.

Bureau of Meteorology official Adam Morgan said Lam was packing "very destructive winds at the centre of the cyclone of around 140 kilometres an hour, with gusts of up to 195 kilometres an hour".

"Coastal residents between Milingimbi and Nhulunbuy are warned of a very dangerous storm tide as the cyclone centre approaches the coast," he said.

"Tides will rise significantly above the normal high tide, with damaging waves and very dangerous flooding."

Cyclones, which are common in northeastern Australia, range from one to five in strength, with five the most severe.

Marcia is forecast to whip up wind gusts of up to 150 kilometres per hour, bringing big seas and causing a deluge of rain and flash flooding.

Queensland state Premier Anna Palaszczuk said 31 local disaster management groups had been activated.

"We are ready, these agencies are well prepared, they`ve done this before," she said.

"Our message to Queenslanders is start getting ready now."

Queensland has been hit by several major storms and cyclones over the past few years.

Tropical Cyclone Oswald, which flooded parts of the state in 2013 and racked up claims of some Aus$977 million (US$765 million), was one of the worst.