Lua no more: Australian ports dodge storm bullet

Australian ports lying in the path of cylone Lua are resuming operations after the category four storm raced across the northwest coast of Australia over the weekend.

Brisbane Times reports that Port Hedland, the world's largest iron ore port, has resumed operations and is trying to recover $230 million in stalled business due to exports being halted for three days:

BHP Billiton, which exports from Port Hedland, was unable to quantify the impact [Monday], saying it was monitoring the situation and would report any impact in its next production statement.

Fortescue Metals Group said work had restarted at its inland and port operations, with no significant damage reported, while Rio Tinto and Atlas Iron both said their operations were also resuming.

Bloomberg reports that the port of Dampier used by Rio Tinto had shut down in anticipation of large swells. Offshore oil operations were also impacted, with Apache Corp and Woodside Petroleum Ltd. shutting down rigs. One source quoted by Bloomberg called the lack of damage from such a severe storm surprising:

“I’ve never seen so minor damage from so strong a cyclone,” Les Hayter, manager of public information at the Fire & Emergency Services Authority of Western Australia, said yesterday in a phone interview. “It’s unbelievable,” said the veteran of 15 cyclones.

Reuters said Port Hedland was closed for 52 hours and the anchorage for 66 hours. Winds were blowing at 260 km/h when the storm reached land but it was downgraded by Sunday afternoon:

Conditions have now improved to a level where the anchorage will be open at 1000 with a view to first port entry and port opening from around 1200 today," the Port Hedland Port Authority said in a statement on Sunday.