WEATHER BREAKING NEWS UPDATE: Hurricane Maria Upgraded to a Category 4 Storm as is Bears Down on the Caribbean
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Hurricane Maria bears down on battered Caribbean
Pointe-à-Pitre (AFP) - Islands in the Caribbean still
reeling from megastorm Irma braced Monday for a fresh battering as
Hurricane Maria approached, wielding potentially lethal force.
In just a few hours, the US National Hurricane Center
(NHC) hiked Maria from a Category Two to a Category Four hurricane,
packing winds of 130 miles (209 kilometres) per hour that it forecast
would strengthen further over the next day or so.
"Potentially life-threatening" storm surges,
destructive waves, flash floods and mudslides threatened the Leeward
Islands -- the island group that includes Martinique, Puerto Rico and
the US and British Vigin islands -- the NHC said.
"The eye and the intense inner core is expected to
pass near Dominica in the next few hours," the center warned in its 2100
GMT bulletin, describing Maria as "an extremely dangerous major
The French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe -- the
bridgehead for aid for Irma-hit French territories -- ordered all
at-risk zones to be evacuated.
The order, effective from 4pm local time, bars
specific areas considered to be at risk of "flooding, submersion and
landslips," according to the statement, issued by the island's prefect.
Islanders on Martinique, which is also part of France, were ordered to stay indoors under a maximum-level "violet" alert.
As heavy rain beat down, energy supplier EDF said
power had been cut off from 16,000 homes on Martinique, which has a
population of some 400,000.
Dominica, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia and the British island of Montserrat are also on alert.
In Pointe-a-Pitre, Elodie Corte, the boss of a
metalworking company, said there had been frantic preparations to limit
the damage from the storm.
"We spent the morning strapping down the aluminium to stop it from flying away if the winds are strong," she said.
But she worried that the torrential rains forecast could flood her home.
"We'll seal everything as tightly as we can and then we'll certainly go and stay with friends for the night," she said.
- 'Worst-case scenario' -
Criticised for the pace of relief efforts in their
overseas territories devastated by Irma, Britain, France and the
Netherlands said they were boosting resources for the Caribbean as Maria
"We are planning for the unexpected, we are planning
for the worst," said Chris Austin, head of a UK military task force set
up to deal with Irma, as the British Virgin Islands readied for the
On the island of St Martin, which is split between
France and the Netherlands, authorities announced a red alert ahead of
"We're watching its trajectory very closely, and we're preparing for the worst-case scenario," said local official Anne Laubies. The Dutch navy tweeted that troops were
heading to the two tiny neighbouring islands of Saba and St Eustatius to
ensure security following widespread complaints of looting and
lawlessness on St Martin after the first hurricane. French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said
110 more soldiers would be deployed to the region to reinforce about
3,000 people already there shoring up security, rebuilding
infrastructure and distributing aid. But he warned of "major difficulties" if
Guadeloupe is hard hit, noting the territory was "the logistical centre
from where we could supply St Martin and organise all the airlifts". Maria is due to sweep over the south of Sint
Maarten -- as the Dutch side of St Martin is called -- on Tuesday. The
island was among the worst hit by Irma, with 14 killed. Air France, Air Caraibes and Corsair have cancelled flights in and out of Martinique and Guadeloupe. - Hurricane series - Irma, a Category 5 hurricane, left around 40
people dead in the Caribbean before churning west and pounding Florida,
where at least 20 people died. Irma broke weather records when it whipped up winds of 295 kilometres per hour for more than 33 hours straight. Another hurricane, Jose, is also active in
the Atlantic and has triggered tropical storm warnings for the
northeastern United States. Many scientists are convinced that megastorms
such as Irma, and Harvey before it, are intensified by the greater
energy they can draw from oceans that are warming as a result of climate