Australian coal port shuts ahead of cyclone

The prime minister on Sunday urged people in north Queensland to prepare for the cyclone.

Australian coal port shuts ahead of cyclone

Australia's largest coal export terminal of Dalrymple Bay shut down operations on Sunday due to an approaching cyclone, which is expected to hit the region early on Monday.

The closure is the latest disruption to coal exports from Queensland and follows devastating summer floods across eastern Australia, which killed at least 35 people, swamped 30,000 homes, forced mines to close and destroyed roads and rail lines.

Australia's weather bureau said tropical cyclone Anthony was gaining strength to a category two cyclone as it approached the northern Queensland coast, and would lead to high tides, rough seas and destructive wind gusts.

The cyclone is due to hit land between the northern Queensland towns of Townsville and Mackay, prompting the closure of the export harbour around the Dalrymple Bay terminal.

"The harbour master has locked the port down as of 10 a.m. this morning," said Dalrymple Bay spokesman Andrew Garratt.

"We would be hopeful of being in a position to be out loading again tomorrow morning, but that will be determined by just how rough the seas are," he said.

Australia's floods disaster has already piled up pressure on government finances and Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who is struggling to win public support for her recovery package, which included a new flood tax.

The Queensland state government on Friday said it estimated the floods cut up 15 million tonnes from steel-making coal exports from the financial year ending June 30, 2011.

Townsville mayor Les Tyrell said the area was well prepared for cyclone Anthony and more heavy rain.

"We are fairly fortunate at the moment. Our dams are certainly full but our rivers and streams are now empty to some extent from the rain we had," he told Australian media.

Authorities are also watching another tropical storm near Vanuatu, which could form a cyclone and hit Queensland late this week.

The prime minister on Sunday urged people in north Queensland to prepare for the cyclone and listen for weather warnings.

"We're all made of tough stuff and we'll get through this but this is another big cruel blow coming on top of what has been a summer of tragedy already," Gillard told reporters.


Reuters

Last Mod: 30 Ocak 2011, 11:12
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