Alert as Australia braces for cyclone
Sydney - A tropical cyclone bearing down on Western Australia intensified on Saturday, placing the region on high alert as the storm threatened to bring destructive gale-force winds.
Severe tropical cyclone Lua, upgraded to a Category 4 storm - five is the highest - is moving steadily toward the coast and is expected to make landfall on Saturday afternoon.
"There is a threat to lives and homes. You are in danger and need to act immediately," Western Australian emergency officials said in a warning to residents in the sparsely populated Pilbara region.
The small communities of Pardoo and Wallal are believed to be in the line of the cyclone and residents of those areas have been warned to seek shelter immediately.
"Destructive winds to 160km/h are possible between Port Hedland and Bidyadanga extending to the inland eastern Pilbara later in the day," the Bureau of Meteorology said in a warning.
"Very destructive winds up to 230km/h are forecast near the cyclone centre."
Commercial flights into the area have been cancelled and the main highway closed, while the Port Hedland port has been shut down.
Western Australia's Pilbara region is an important resources hub, with major iron ore and gas facilities.