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Pilbara on blue alert as tropical low approaches

Tuesday January 22, 2013 - 16:59 EDT

A blue alert has been issued for Pilbara communities as a tropical low intensifies off the North West coast.

The low is currently about 195 kilometres east north-east of Port Hedland and is expected to intensify into a category one tropical cyclone in the next 24 hours.

The Port Hedland Port Authority has evacuated its inner and outer anchorages.

The authority says it has moved 35 vessels further out to sea to avoid the potential cyclonic weather; they were anchored preparing to return to port before the decision was made.

There are currently seven ships moored in the docks that are being loaded but the port is to close later today and those ships will be sent out to sea.

A Chevron spokesperson says it is monitoring the low to see if there will be any impact on its Gorgon Project at Barrow Island and Onslow.

"We're monitoring the situation and will work with our contractors to make the necessary precautionary arrangements," he said.

"Our number one priority is the health and safety of our people."

Apache says it has also begun preparations and will make safe all its facilities.

In a statement, the company says its Stag and Van Gogh fields are being shut down and all non-essential personnel from offshore operations are being evacuated.

Woodside says it is taking the necessary precautions to safeguard its people and assets.

Forecasters predict the system will affect the coastal Pilbara town of Dampier tomorrow night.

A spokesperson at the town's port says it has asked the companies which have privately owned terminals to clear their vessels from the dock and send them out to sea by the end of the day.


© ABC 2013

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