Thursday, August 25, 2011

Hurricane Irene hammers Bahamas islands

Hurricane Irene has destroyed dozens of homes in the southern Bahamas as it roars over the archipelago.

Irene is currently a category three storm, with winds of 185km/h (115mph), and is expected to strengthen as it heads toward the US east coast.

Lovely Bay settlement on the remote Acklins Island was devastated, Bahamas officials said, but there were no immediate reports of casualties.

The huge storm has brought flooding and power cuts across the Caribbean.

At 12:00 GMT on Thursday, Irene was located 105km (65 miles) east north-east of the Bahamas capital, Nassau, the US National Hurricane Center in Miami said.

The storm is now moving over more populated islands in the north-western Bahamas.

It is expected to strengthen to a category four hurricane, and is on a projected path veering close to the US eastern seaboard over the weekend.
'Stay safe'

Lovely Bay on Acklins Island in the southern Bahamas was badly hit, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said.

Click to play

As Hurricane Irene sweeps over the Bahamas and heads towards the Carolinas, Peter Gibbs shows us the latest forecast track.

On its website, The Tribune newspaper said homes had "been completely washed away or have lost entire roofs, power lines have been downed and trees are blocking roads".

Crooked Island saw wind gusts of more than 160km/h, with a school's roof "completely blown off and its windows blow out", NEMA reported.

On Mayaguana Island, Irene knocked out power, and damaged at least 40 houses.

Officials are urging people throughout the Bahamas to stay indoors in a safe and secure structure.

Nassau, on the most populated island of New Providence, was expected to see some flooding.

So far, there have been no reports of casualties.

"As a general statement, we do a fair job of managing hurricanes so personal injuries, we hope, will not be substantial," Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham told the Associated Press (AP) news agency.
Emergency help

On Tuesday, Irene pelted the UK overseas territory of the Turks and Caicos Islands with high winds and heavy rain.

Hundreds of people in the Dominican Republic took refuge in schools and churches after they were displaced by storm flooding. One man was reported to have died in flooding.

Irene also brought flooding to neighbouring Haiti, where at least two people were reported to have died.

In Puerto Rico, the storm knocked out power to more than half the island and affected the water supplies of more than 100,000 people.

A 62-year-old woman died while attempting to drive over a swollen river near the capital, San Juan, AP reported.

And on Tuesday, more than 80 families in the town of Canovanas lost their homes when a river rose suddenly in heavy rain, El Nuevo Dia newspaper said.

US President Barack Obama declared an emergency, making the island, a US protectorate, eligible for federal help.
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