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Cyclone INGRID packs 180mph winds


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Powerful storm heading for Australia's Queensland





SYDNEY, March 8 (Reuters) - A powerful cyclone with winds up to 290 kmh (180 mph) is heading towards far northeastern Australia and could hit land within the next two days, weather officials said on Tuesday.


Cyclone Ingrid, more powerful than Cyclone Tracy that destroyed the northern city of Darwin on Christmas Day 1974, was expected to slam into the Australian coast in 24 to 48 hours.


"Ingrid is a category five cyclone and we don't often see them. When it does come ashore it will pack a punch near its eye," said Phil Alford with the Tropical Cyclone Warning Centre.


Residents along the sparsely populated coast, which runs parallel to the Great Barrier Reef, have been urged to board up homes and shops and secure boats ahead of the cyclone, which will bring destructive winds, storm tides and flooding.


Ingrid was 320 km (200 miles) northeast of Cooktown, population about 1,600, and travelling at eight kmh (five mph) towards the coast.


A cyclone warning has been issued from the small town of Lockhart River in the north to the tourist centre Port Douglas in the south, a 500 km (310 miles) stretch of coast.


"We have no indication it is going to weaken," said Alford.


"All models show it is going to come ashore at some stage, either tomorrow evening or Thursday morning."


Weather officials do not believe the storm will hit Cooktown.


Ingrid is a small cyclone with an eye of 20 km (12 miles) in diameter, around which the most destructive winds swirl, just like Cyclone Tracy which made a direct hit on Darwin.


"Ingrid has a very destructive core with wind gusts to 290 kmh," said the Tropical Cyclone Centre bulletin.






03/07/05 21:10

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