Cyclone lashing northwest Australia weakens

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — A slow-moving cyclone that lashed northwest Australia was weakening on Monday.

The Bureau of Meteorology said Cyclone Veronica had weakened from a Category 3 storm, on a scale in which 5 is the strongest, to a Category 2, with sustained winds near its center of 100 kilometers (62 miles) per hour and wind gusts of up to 140 kph (87 mph).

The storm was expected to continue to track west away from the coast of the sparsely populated Pilbara region of Western Australia state and weaken below cyclone strength late Monday, the bureau said.

There have been no reports of injuries or major structural damage from two major cyclones that hit the Australian coast over the weekend. But damage assessment had only just begun on Monday.

About 60,000 people live in the area most affected by Veronica, which crossed the Pilbara coast on Sunday. The iron ore mining region is said to be generally well prepared for cyclones that lash its coast frequently.

On Saturday, Category 4 Cyclone Trevor hit a remote part of the Northern Territory coast, about 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) to the east of the Pilbara region.

Trevor was downgraded on Sunday to a tropical low pressure system as it moved inland. The more than 2,000 people evacuated from Northern Territory coastal areas in its path have begun moving back home.

A red alert that warns residents to find shelter and brace for destructive winds remained in place in parts of the Pilbara. But that warning is expected to be lifted on Monday.

Roof and tree damage has been reported at towns in the Pilbara region.

Cyclones are frequent in Australia’s tropical north but rarely claim lives. Still, two large storms such as Trevor and Veronica hitting on successive days is rare.