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Maria nearing battered Caribbean

China Daily | Updated: 2017-09-19 07:25

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic - A second powerful storm in as many weeks was bearing down on a string of battered Caribbean islands, with forecasters saying Maria would strengthen rapidly into a major hurricane as it ripped into the Leeward Islands on Monday night.

Maria's strength was building as it approached the Lesser Antilles, the US National Hurricane Center said, estimating its winds near 145 km/h.

"Maria is expected to become a major hurricane as it moves through the Leeward Islands," the forecaster said, marked by "rapid strengthening" during the next 48 hours. Maria is approaching the eastern Caribbean less than two weeks after Irma hammered the region before overrunning Florida.

That storm, one of the most powerful ever recorded in the Atlantic with winds up to 298 km/h, killed at least 84 people, more than half of them in the Caribbean.

As of 2 am on Monday, the center of the storm was about 150 kilometers north-northeast of Barbados and about 270 km east-southeast of the Leeward island of Dominica, moving to the west-northwest at about 20 km/h.

Hurricane conditions were expected for Guadalupe, Dominica, Martinique and St. Kitts, Nevis and Montserrat, and the hurricane center warned Puerto Rico to monitor the storm.

The British Virgin Islands and St. Martin, which was devastated by Hurricane Irma, were under a hurricane watch, as were the US Virgin Islands and Anguilla.

More than 1,700 residents of Barbuda, where Irma damaged nearly every building, braced for Maria on neighboring Antigua, now under a tropical storm watch, said Ronald Sanders, the country's ambassador to the United States.

Puerto Rico has already begun preparations for Maria, which by Tuesday was expected to unleash powerful winds on the US territory, already dealing with a weakened economy and fragile power grid.

Damage to Puerto Rico could also disrupt the disaster relief supply chain to other islands that were hit by Irma. "Puerto Rico is our lifeline," said Judson Burdon, a permanent resident of Anguilla who has helped coordinate supply shipments to the island. "We had two volunteer flights cancel because of the weather that is coming."

The planned deliveries consisted of plywood, power tools and screws to close up windows and doors that remain open on the island, where 90 percent of structures were damaged.

The hurricane center also issued a tropical storm watch for portions of the US mid-Atlantic and New England coast by Tuesday as a second hurricane, Jose, moved slowly north from its position in the Atlantic Ocean about 500 km southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.

AP-Reuters

 Maria nearing battered Caribbean

Soldiers from the 602nd Area Support Medical Company wait on a beach for a Navy landing craft as their unit evacuates in advance of Hurricane Maria, in Charlotte Amalie, US Virgin Islands, on Sunday.Jonathan Drake / Reuters

(China Daily 09/19/2017 page11)

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