Defense force deployed to evacuate Australians from path of damaging cyclone

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The Australian Defence Force (ADF) has been deployed to carry out evacuations from a remote area of the Northern Territory (NT) ahead of a cyclone making landfall.

Murray Watt, the minister for emergency management, on Monday approved a request from the NT government for ADF assistance to evacuate up to 800 people from the town of Borroloola — more than 700 km southeast of Darwin — and its surrounds as the region braces for Tropical Cyclone Megan.

As of Monday morning, the cyclone was still over the water 120 km northeast of Borroloola in the Gulf of Carpentaria after causing widespread damage on Groote Eylandt off the NT’s northeast coast.

The Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) has warned the storm will make landfall on the mainland on Monday afternoon as a category three cyclone, bringing with it a very destructive core with wind speeds of up to 200 km per hour as well as heavy rainfall, damaging waves and dangerous flooding.

“There is some concern that not only could there be damage from the cyclone itself, in terms of wind gusts to homes in Borroloola, but also there is a risk of some pretty serious flooding,” Watt told state media Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) radio.

Evacuations began on Monday morning, with the elderly and vulnerable prioritized.

Due to the small runway in Borroloola, Senator Malarndirri McCarthy — who is from the town — told the ABC that smaller aircraft would take evacuees to the nearby Macarthur River Mine airport where they would transfer to larger Royal Australian Air Force planes to be taken to Darwin.

Groote Eylandt was hit by strong winds and up to 680 millimeters of rain in the 48 hours to Sunday morning as the cyclone approached.

The Groote Eylandt Mining Company manganese mine on the island was forced to close due to the storm.

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