Australia's northeast coast braces for destructive cyclone

February 19, 2015 11:49 PM

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SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australian officials were urgently evacuating thousands of residents and warning tens of thousands more to bunker down in their homes on Friday as a potentially destructive cyclone approached the country's northeastern coast.

Cyclone Marcia was upgraded overnight to a category 5 system, the highest rating. It is due to cross the northeast Queensland coast within hours, with destructive winds of up to 285 kph (177 miles) expected near the core of the system, according to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.

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