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Cyclone (Hurricane) Rusty menaces coast of Western Australia, shutting down iron ore port


In this Handout Image provided by the Japan Meteorological Agency, Tropical Cyclone Rusty is recorded by the MTSAT Satellite nearing the Western Australian coastline, on February 27, 2013.


Japan Meteorological Agency via Getty Images

Cyclone Rusty has spared Australia's major iron ore port — one of the world's biggest — steering away from Port Hedland as it crossed the country's western coast.

However, not before the port's operations were stopped and its 20,200 inhabitants ordered to take shelter.

The Australian reported that a red alert had been issued for Australia's famed Pilbara mining region as Rusty intensified to a category four storm.

The slow-moving cyclone — as hurricanes are known in the southern hemisphere — was expected to make landfall between Pardoo and Whim Creek.

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The eye of the massive storm began to cross the West Australian coast Wednesday afternoon local time, more than 30 hours after the red alert was called for the entire north-west coastline.

However, the danger had not yet passed.

The ABC quoted Les Hayter of the Department of Fire and Emergency Services as saying:

"Unfortunately it's not typical of the cyclones we get up here, that take about 12 hours to cross, and we say goodbye to that one, and focus on the next one. I really feel sorry for the people in red alert mode at the moment. This is going to be for a very long period of time."

According to Reuters, the closing of Port Hedland "brought half the world's seaborne-traded iron ore to a halt."

Port Hedland exports iron ore from mines owned by BHP Billiton, Fortescue Metals Group and Atlas Iron.

Rio Tinto Group’s shipping terminals at Dampier and Cape Lambert ports shut earlier this week.