22 Dec 2009

Cyclone weakens but leaves trail of damage

6:57 pm on 22 December 2009

Cyclone Laurence has continued its path across northern Western Australia, leaving a trail of destruction but no reported injuries.

The cyclone, initially designated category 5, crossed the Pilbara coast on Monday afternoon, causing significant damage to some buildings.

The Fire and Emergency Service says there is major structural damage at Mandora, Eighty Mile Beach and Wallal, with some buildings flattened.

Now downgraded to category 3, the cyclone is continuing to move inland in WA's northern Pilbara region, and the Bureau of Meteorology says it could reach the Northern Territory border.

The Cyclone Warning Centre's Caroline Crow says it is highly unusual for the cyclone watch to be extended as far inland as Warburton and Giles, as was the case on Tuesday morning.

People in or near communities from Sandfire to Pardoo and inland to Yarrie, Marble Bar and Telfer are on alert.

The Telfer gold mine, located south-east of Port Hedland, has stopped production and all non-essential workers have been flown off site.

The Bureau of Meteorology says Laurence is expected to weaken into a deep low as it travels east towards the Western Australian-Northern Territory border on Wednesday afternoon.

It is predicting widespread damaging wind gusts of up to 100 kilometres per hour in the region, including Yulara, near Uluru, and Kulgera, as well as heavy rainfall.