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Hurricane Irene hits Puerto Rico

Hurricane Irene hits Puerto Rico
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Hurricane Irene has hit the US Carribbean territory of Puerto Rico, knocking out electricity lines and ripping up trees. More than 800,000 homes were left without power including in the capital, San Juan.

Rivers overflowed and coastal roads were flooded, but there were no immediate reports of deaths or serious casualties.

Puerto Rico’s governor said he wanted the US to declare the archipelago a disaster area so it can access emergency funds.

Irene, which is the first hurricane of the 2011 season, then swept just north of the Dominican Republic.

“The core of Irene should be passing just to the north of Hispaniola later today and early Tuesday, and reach the Turks and Caicos Islands and the southeastern Bahamas late Tuesday,” the Miami-based US National Hurricane Center said.

Hispaniola island has impoverished Haiti on its western side and there were fears that rain from Irene could trigger deadly floods and mudslides in the country, which is still struggling to recover from a devastating 2010 earthquake.

Tropical storm watches and warnings were also in effect for the US Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands, the southeastern Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos islands.

Residents of the southeastern United States were urged to monitor Irene’s progress as the storm headed their way. Computer forecast models showed Irene moving northwest over the Dominican Republic and then heading toward the Florida peninsula possibly arriving there on Thursday.

Current forecasts showed Irene posing no threat to US oil and gas installations in the Gulf of Mexico.