BHP, Residents Brace as Cyclone Stan Nears Australian Coast

  • Cyclone is about 205 kilometers north of Port Hedland
  • Winds may reach 180 kilometers an hour, weather bureau warns

BHP Billiton Ltd. evacuated port workers and residents in Australia’s remote northwest were told to seek shelter as Cyclone Stan crept toward the coast.

Stan is about 205 kilometers (128 miles) north of Port Hedland, the world’s largest bulk-export terminal, and is moving slowing toward Western Australia’s Pilbara region, the Bureau of Meteorology said on its website Saturday. The weather system will strengthen to a category 3 severe tropical cyclone before making landfall east of Port Hedland early Sunday, the bureau said.

Port Hedland is the maritime gateway for miners exploiting deposits in the ore-rich Pilbara region. The weather bureau said destructive winds of 180 kilometers an hour are possible near the center of the cyclone, and it warned communities on hundreds of kilometers of coastline that a dangerous storm tide might arrive at the same time.

“There is a possible threat to lives and homes,” Western Australia’s Department of Fire and Emergency Services said in a separate statement. “You need to take action and get ready to shelter.”

BHP, the world’s largest mining company, strapped down equipment and left only a minimal number of port workers on site, it said in a statement. While Rio Tinto Plc’s mine and rail operations are functioning normally, ships have left port for a safe anchorage, a spokesman said in an e-mail. Port Hedland is now closed.

Ore Exports

Fortescue Metals Group Ltd., which also exports ore from Port Hedland, said in an e-mailed statement it was closely monitoring conditions and its operations and workers were ready for the cyclone to hit.

Gales as strong as 100 kilometers an hour are likely to develop during Saturday between Bidyadanga and Whim Creek, the bureau said. That’s a stretch of coast more than 500 kilometers long that straddles Port Hedland. Inland floods are also possible as the cyclone sweeps south, according to the bureau.

Residents in the path of the cyclone should secure outdoor items including boats and caravans and prepare to take shelter, the Department of Fire and Emergency Services warned.

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