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Cyclone bears down on NE Australia

Cyclone Ingrid bears down on northeastern Australia in this image from Tuesday at 5:30 a.m. GMT.
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(CNN) -- Communities in far north-eastern Australia have been put on alert as a strong cyclone bears down on the coastline near the tourist center of Cairns.

The country's Bureau of Meteorology issued a tropical cyclone warning for areas between Lockhart River and Port Douglas in Queensland.

"People between Port Douglas and Lockhart River should immediately commence or continue preparations, especially protecting boats and property using available daylight hours", the Bureau's Web site said.

The Bureau added that the category 5 cyclone, nicknamed Ingrid, was likely to maintain its intensity, which is packing winds of almost 300 km/h (186 mph).

It is presently situated approximately 320 km (200 miles) north-east of Cooktown.

Tropical north Queensland has a permanent population of around 230,000 people.

It has a large rural economy and strong tourist industry which attracts as many as 1.5 million visitors a year.

On Christmas Eve in 1974, the town of Darwin in Australia's far north was devastated by Cyclone Tracy.

Despite issued warnings, many residents were caught unprepared as the cyclone hit and leveled most major buildings.

Forty-nine people died and a further 16 perished at sea, while total damage ran into hundreds of millions of dollars, according to the Bureau's site.

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