Cyclone Glenda lashes Australia

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The Independent Online

Australia's remote north-west shore was lashed by 80 mph winds as a severe tropical cyclone began crossing the coast today from the Indian Ocean. There were no immediate reports of substantial damage.

Cyclone Glenda first hit land along the sparsely populated Pilbara coast of Western Australia state, about 620 miles north of the state capital, Perth, about 4pm local time (0800 GMT), said the Bureau of Meteorology manager, Grahame Reader.

The cyclone was expected to take several hours to pass over land — where its destructive energy was expected to dissipate quickly — because its south-south-west course was running almost parallel to the coast, he said.

Onslow, a fishing town of more than 800, was likely to bear the brunt of the cyclone's force.

"There is a fairly good chance that Onslow will be in for a period very destructive winds, so you can say the cyclone will hit it," he said.

In February 1995, seven fishermen died when two trawlers were sunk off Onslow as a cyclone of similar strength passed close.

A bureau statement said "very destructive gusts" of up 155 mph were expected near the cyclone center.

Pilbara residents were also warned of the potential for a dangerous storm tide as the cyclone center crosses the coast.

"Tides are likely to rise significantly above the normal high tide mark with very dangerous flooding and damaging waves," the bureau said.

Heavy rains pelted the Pilbara region as residents battened down for the storm — the sixth to menace them since the season began in November.

"We are asking people to stay indoors and to seek shelter," said Jim Cahill, an operations manager with the Fire and Emergency Services Authority of Western Australia.

Glenda was downgraded from a maximum category 5 storm to category 4 late Wednesday, but was still expected to wreak havoc along the Pilbara coastline, home to few major towns but many huge mining complexes including major iron ore and diamond mines.

Glenda's assault on Western Australia comes just over a week after category 5 Cyclone Larry battered Queensland state on the east coast with 180 mph winds, devastating farming towns and flattening banana and sugar cane plantations.

Insurance claims for Larry had by Tuesday reached 250 million Australian dollars (US$177 million), authorities said earlier this week.