Caribbean islands braced for new hurricane
The hurricane-battered islands of the Caribbean prepared to face yet another disaster last night, with forecasters saying that Tropical Storm Maria was headed their way as a strengthening hurricane.
Hurricane watches were in effect for many of the very islands still trying to cope with the devastation left by Hurricane Irma, including St Martin, St Barts and Antigua and Barbuda.
The US National Hurricane Centre said Maria was likely to grow into a hurricane by last night and swell into major hurricane status by midweek as it heads for Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Haiti.
The storm had maximum sustained winds of 100kmh yesterday. It was centred about 650km south-east of the Lesser Antilles and was heading west-north-west at 24kmh.
The Hurricane Centre said hurricane conditions should begin to affect parts of the Leeward Islands by tonight, with storm surge raising water levels by 1.2m to 1.83m near the storm's centre.
The storm is likely to bring 15 to 30cm of rain across the islands, with more in isolated areas.
It could make a direct hit on Puerto Rico, which was spared the full brunt of Irma, though power was knocked out to much of the island.
Governor Ricardo Rossello said officials had prepared about 450 shelters with a capacity for nearly 68,000 people - or even 125,000 in an emergency.
He added that schools were cancelled for today.