Australian cyclone rusty speeds into category four

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A major cyclone powering towards Australia’s resources-rich northwest upgraded to a category four storm on Wednesday as strong winds and heavy rains lashed the region.

Tropical cyclone Rusty intensified as it edged towards Australia’s Pilbara coast, gathering speed and force across a 370-kilometre front and whipping up six-meters high waves.

Category four is just one notch short of the top category.

Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology expects Rusty to make landfall east of Port Hedland, about 1,300 kilometres (800 miles) north of Perth, on Wednesday evening,.

Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s weather forecaster Neil Bennett said that “we could see some gusts getting up to nearly 250kph. Some rainfall totals may be as much as 600 millimetres (24 inches) in a 24-hour period.”

Australia’s major iron ore export ports have been shut for several days anticipating Rusty’s approach and hundreds of people have been forced to evacuate their homes in the sparsely populated but cyclone-prone zones.

Global iron ore giants including BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals Group have all shut down or scaled back operations due to the storm.