SYDNEY (Reuters) - A cyclone in the Coral Sea is forecast to intensify before slamming into Australia's northeast coast later this week, less than a month after the area was pummeled by one the most powerful cyclones on record to hit Australia, the national weather forecaster said on Tuesday.
Australia's Bureau of Meteorology expects Cyclone Nathan to turn toward the coast in the next 24 to 48 hours, with the storm's epicenter reaching land about 300km (185 miles) north of the Great Barrier Reef city of Cairns in Queensland state, driving winds reaching as high as 224km (135 miles) per hour.
On Feb 20, Cyclone Marcia slammed into the Queensland coast carrying winds as strong as 285km per hour, causing billions of dollars in damage and leaving thousands homeless or without electricity. It was just the sixth category 5 (maximum-strength) cyclone recorded in Australia.
Some 2,000 km (1,250 miles) to the east, international aid agencies began emergency flights on Tuesday to some of the remote outer islands of Vanuatu, which they fear have been devastated by Cyclone Pam, which tore through the South Pacific island nation at the weekend. [ID:nL3N0WI5NJ]
(Reporting by James Regan; Editing by Eric Meijer)