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Cyclones to hit flood-weary Australia


Flood-shattered Australia braced for further downpours on Sunday as two tropical cyclones hammered toward the devastated northeast, threatening further misery for already submerged towns.

Tropical Cyclone Anthony was intensifying as it closed in on Queensland state, where it was expected to cross the coast between 10:00 pm Sunday and 4:00 am Monday near the northeastern city of Townsville, the weather bureau said.

Abnormally high tides were forecast along the coast along with intense rain and flooding to catchments already brimming from a deluge that destroyed vast areas of the state earlier this month, swamping tens of thousands of homes and killing 35 people.

"Destructive wind gusts are expected to develop about coastal and island communities close to the cyclone centre as it approaches the coast late tonight," the bureau said.

Currently a category two, Anthony is expected to peak on Sunday evening and weaken as it makes landfall, with winds of up to 165 kilometres an hour (100 mph) and between 200 and 400 millimetres of rain.

A tropical low off Fiji was highly likely to develop into a cyclone in the next 24-48 hours according weather experts, with Australian officials warning it could reach category four strength by the time it hit Queensland on Thursday.

The last category four system to strike northeastern Australia, Severe Tropical Cyclone Larry, wrought almost Ausê1 billion in damage back in March 2006 and unleashed some of that region's heaviest flooding in decades.

"Queensland continues to face the prospect of two very significant weather events in the next five days," said Queensland premier Anna Bligh, urging residents in Anthony's path to "batten down the hatches".

The second system, which is yet to develop into a full-blown cyclone or be named, was a "very large" weather event which was likely to bring destructive winds and heavy rainfall, said Bligh.

"We are looking at not only a potentially damaging cyclone but more very heavy rainfall which ... could fall into river catchments and cause further flooding beyond the cyclone," she said.

It would be unwelcome news for the many thousands of Queensland residents still reeling from December's Tropical Cyclone Tasha which unleashed flooding across an area larger than France and Germany combined.

"Yes, we have come through a very difficult time and our emergency resources have certainly been tested in the past couple of weeks,' said Bligh.

"We are not battle weary we are battle ready."