MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Authorities in Western Australia were urging residents of its Mid West coast to find safe shelter or leave on Saturday as cyclone Seroja barrelled towards a coastal region that is usually too far south to fall in the path of cyclones.
Residents in Western Australia's Mid West and Gascoyne regions are being urged to finalise their emergency plans, as the cyclone is expected to intensify to a category three overnight, battering a region where buildings are not made to withstand cyclonic winds.
"This is a very serious situation. The potential for widespread devastation is high," state Emergency Services Minister Fran Logan said on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).
"We hope that we can get through these next few days without loss of life and without serious property damage. We need to work on the basis of worst case scenario," she said, adding that cyclonic winds had not been seen in the area for decades.
Australia's Bureau of Meteorology forecasts destructive winds with gusts to 150 km per hour (93 miles per hour), and heavy rains that could cause significant damage to coastal communities as the cyclone moves across the coast and further inland.
The most likely area to experience destructive wind gusts is on the coast between Geraldton, 200 km north of Perth, and Denham, 500 km north of Perth.
This area is much further south of Port Hedland, the world's largest iron ore export hub, which withstands several cyclones a season and where houses are built to stronger standards.
(Reporting by Melanie Burton; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)