West Australia issues cyclone red alert

Stormy skies loom over Pretty Pool in Port Hedland as Cyclone Christine approaches West Australia's Pilbara coast, 30 December 2013
Image caption On average around two cyclones make landfall on West Australia each year

Western Australia is braced for a powerful tropical cyclone, with winds of up to 200km/hour (120 mph) and flooding expected.

Cyclone Christine is set to make landfall on Monday night.

Red alerts have been issued for some coastal communities, including the towns of Port Hedland and Karratha.

Residents in the affected areas have been ordered to stay indoors. Mining companies in the region say they have scaled back operations.

"Very destructive winds with gusts in excess of 200 km/h (120 mph) are likely near the centre as the cyclone crosses the coast," the Bureau of Meteorology said in an alert.

"People on the coast between Pardoo and Wickham including Port Hedland are warned of the potential for a very dangerous storm tide tonight," it added.

Port Hedland Mayor Kelly Howlett told broadcaster ABC: "It's looking very ominous, certainly it's been very grey, we have been experiencing an increase in winds, we have been getting some strong gusts and we have been getting a little bit of rain."

Shortly before the cyclone was due to make landfall, winds up to 107km/h and heavy rain was reported in Port Hedland, BBC Weather reported.

Mining companies say they have suspended port and rail operations and secured their infrastructure on the coast.

The Australian cyclone season runs from November to April, and around two cyclones on average make landfall on west Australia each year.

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