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Mass evacuation underway as northern Australia braces for 2 cyclones

Darryl Coote

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Australia's Northern Territory is under a state of emergency as two cyclones could make landfall in days. Photo courtesy Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology

March 21 (UPI) -- Parts of Northern Australia are being evacuated as a state of emergency has been called prior to two cyclones making landfall in the next few days.

Cyclone Trevor is expected to make landfall along the Carpentaria or east Arnhem coastlines Saturday as a Category 4 storm, classified as "severe" by the Bureau of Meteorology with wind speeds up to 170 mph.

"The warm waters of the Gulf and favorable conditions in the atmosphere mean there isn't a lot to stop Cyclone Trevor from becoming a large, powerful and extremely dangerous cyclone," Bureau of Meteorology Meteorologist Dr. Adam Morgan said.

Daily rain totals are forecast to be about 200 to 300 millimeters near the core of Cyclone Trevor and 100 to 200 father off, Morgan said.

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Meanwhile, Cyclone Veronica has grown from a Category 1 to a "sever Category 4 system" with winds of 155 mph in the last 24 hours and is expected to make landfall over the weekend, Bureau of Meteorology Meteorologist Andrea Peace said.

"As the cyclone approaches the Pilbara coast over the weekend, communities are likely to experience destructive winds, very dangerous storm surge and heavy rain that are conducive to major flooding," she said.

Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner declared a state of emergency Wednesday and the largest mass exodus since 1974 has since been underway, ABC News reported.

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The 1,600 residents of Groote Eylandt, an island in the northern Gulf of Carpentaria, were being evacuated as well as hundreds of people along the Arnhem coast.

Residents are being airlifted by the Australian Defense Force from Groote Eylandt to Darwin, continuing the operation from yesterday.

"At the moment we've got four aircraft in the air," Lieutenant Colonel Scott Jamison said, adding that they are working with all departments possible.

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On Wednesday, the ADF had already evacuated 220 of the island's residences and would ramp up efforts until all residents were off the island.

The government is estimating that about 10,000 people could be affected by the storm.