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Earthquake kills dozens as Hurricane Maria intensifies

By Georgina Stubbs

Hurricane Maria "reintensified" into a category five storm as it swept towards British overseas territories already battered by Irma yesterday.

The US National Hurricane Centre (NHC) said Maria had regained strength, with sustained winds of up to 160mph, as it approached the British Virgin Islands (BVI).

In the first confirmed death, officials on the French island of Guadeloupe said one person has been killed by a falling tree.

Another two people are missing after their boat sank. Maria had briefly been downgraded to a category four storm after making landfall in Dominica on Monday, but US Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft reported it had returned to the highest level.

The NHC said Maria is a "potentially catastrophic" storm, adding: "Some fluctuations in intensity are likely during the next day or two, but Maria is forecast to remain an extremely dangerous category 4 or 5 hurricane until it moves near or over the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico."

Emergency steps were being undertaken on the BVI yesterday to prepare for the onslaught, although an official co-ordinating the operation warned the islands had been "weakened" by Irma and the situation "doesn't look good".

Relief workers were racing to secure debris left strewn across the islands that have the potential to make the coming hurricane "more hazardous" if they are picked up by high winds.

Another British overseas territory, Montserrat, may face a devastating storm surge, while torrential rain could trigger deadly flash floods.

Belfast Telegraph

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