Northeastern Australia has battened down the hatches as it prepares for a strong cyclone forecast to hit coastal areas north of Cairns. Tropical Cyclone Nathan first threatened the coast last week.
The category three storm has since backtracked on its route and headed towards the area of Cooktown - some 260 kilometers (160 miles) from popular tourist destination Cairns.
The Bureau of Meteorology said Nathan was expected to make landfall as a category four cyclone on Friday morning, with wind gusts of up to 230 kilometers per hour. It was not due to coincide with the high tide however.
"Not all residents will receive category four- or category three-strength winds, but if you are in the warning zone it's important to continue or commence your preparations now if you have not already started," said Rob Webb, the bureau's Queensland director.
Emergency officials said on Thursday that hundreds of residents on the coast, as well as workers at a silica mine and the Lizard Island resort on the Great Barrier Reef, had been evacuated.
Billions in damage
Cyclone Nathan comes just a month after twin storms crashed into northern Australia. Cyclone Lam hit a sparsely populated area of the Northern Territory. Cyclone Marcia, however, slammed into the southern part of the same coast expected to be hit by Nathan on Friday. The category five cyclone caused billions of dollars in damage and left thousands homeless or without electricity.
Last Friday, the nearby archipelago of Vanuatu was also left devastated by super cyclone Pam. Villagers, particularly on the outer islands, have been left in desperate need of food and water, with many also lacking access to any means of communication.
Australia's worst cyclone in history was recorded on December 25, 1974 when hurricane Tracy hit Darwin, killing 65 people and flattening over 90 percent of the city's homes.
ksb/bk (AFP, Reuters)