Hurricane Irene intensifies as alarm bells sound in Hispaniola
Aug 23, 2011, 3:22 GMT
Mexico City - Hurricane Irene strengthened in the Caribbean and threatened to become a major storm as it churned north of the Dominican Republic and headed to the Turks and Caicos Islands and Bahamas.
Irene became a category two storm on the five-category Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale, the National Hurricane Center said late Monday from its headquarters in Miami.
It was packing maximum sustained winds of 160 kilometres per hour as hurricane warnings were declared along the northern coast of Hispaniola, an island shared by the Dominican Republic and Haiti.
The national guard was activated Sunday in the Dominican Republic and 264 emergency shelters were prepared amid widespread electrical outages, local media reported.
Authorities warned of landslides in the mountains and flooding in low-lying areas near rivers. Hundreds of families were evacuated from their homes, El Nacional newspaper reported.
Irene developed at the weekend over the Lesser Antilles in the eastern Caribbean and has continuously strengthened since then. It struck neighbouring Puerto Rico, damaging roads and felling trees and telephone poles.
It was located Monday night about 210 kilometres east of Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic and 320 kilometres south-east of Grand Turk Island, the National Hurricane Center said.
It was moving west-north-west at 17 kilometres per hour, and its core was forecast to pass just north of the Dominican Republic and Haiti overnight, near or over the Turks and Caicos Tuesday, and threaten the Bahamas Tuesday and Wednesday, the centre said.