31 Aug 2010

Storm warnings issued for Hurricane Earl

1:43 pm on 31 August 2010

A storm moving through the eastern Caribbean has strengthened to a Category Four hurricane, prompting warnings for several islands.

Hurricane Earl is generating sustained winds of 215km/h.

Forecasters say it is a major hurricane and could cause "catastrophic" damage if it hits land.

Strong winds and heavy rains are already lashing several islands in Caribbean, but the storm has now passed by the Virgin Islands.

Earl is currently north-east of Puerto Rico, and moving west-northwest at about 24km/h according to the National Hurricane Center in the United States.

The centre of the storm is expected to move away from the Virgin Islands on Monday night and pass to the east of the Turks and Caicos on Tuesday night.

Hurricane warnings in place on several islands in the region have now been degraded.

The BBC reports tropical storm warnings are in place in the US Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands, Turks and Caicos and in Puerto Rico, including the islands of Culebra and Vieques.

Earl is being closely followed by Tropical Storm Fiona, currently east of the Leeward Isles with winds of up to 65km/h.