A strong tropical cyclone hurtled towards Western Australia on Thursday, triggering evacuations as authorities warned violent winds could toss caravans, tear down trees and turn debris into “missiles”.

Forecasters predict the category four storm could bring gusts of up to 270 kilometres per hour (167 miles), making it one of the most powerful cyclones to hit the state in a decade.

The storm was expected to make landfall on Thursday evening or Friday morning, landing somewhere between the coastal towns of Broome and Port Hedland about 17 hours’ drive North of Perth.

It is forecast to then move inland, with weather warnings in place for a vast but sparsely-populated expanse stretching some 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) from the coast into the desert outback.

The region is home to iron ore mines, gold mines, sprawling cattle ranches and a number of Aboriginal communities.

The Bureau of Meteorology said the winds would be strong enough to tear down trees and power lines and could launch “caravans” and “trampolines”.

Flash flooding was also a risk, the weather bureau said.

The state’s Department of Fire and Emergency Services said it “cannot stress enough how extreme these conditions will be for those in the area”.

Peter Carter, the mayor of Port Hedland, said the destructive winds could turn flying pieces of debris into “missiles in the air”.

“That’s what causes all the damage, that is what injures people,” he told national broadcaster ABC. “Everyone is on edge,” he added.

Australian researchers have repeatedly warned that climate change amplifies the risk of natural disasters such as bushfires, floods and cyclones.

AFP/ Adebukola Aluko

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