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Hurricane Dean Strengthens, Damages Eastern Caribbean Islands


The U.S. National Weather Service says Hurricane Dean has strengthened into a major storm as it lashes the eastern Caribbean with 201-kilometer per hour winds.

On Friday, Dean uprooted trees, knocked out power and peeled roofs of houses as it passed the islands of Dominica, Martinique and St. Lucia with strong winds and driving rains.

Dean is the first hurricane of this year's Atlantic season and is expected to hit Jamaica on Sunday. The storm is also projected to clip Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula and arrive in the Gulf of Mexico in a few days.

A hurricane watch is in effect for Jamaica, where Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller has been holding emergency meetings with members of the National Disaster Committee. Reports say Hurricane Dean could force the postponement of Jamaica's general elections, which are scheduled for August 27.

Separately, the U.S. State Department issued a travel warning for Jamaica and the Cayman Islands. The warning urges U.S. citizens to carefully consider the risks of traveling to those areas at this time because of the threat posed by Dean.

Elsewhere, at least four people were killed Thursday when Tropical Depression Erin made landfall along the southern coastal region of Texas.

Erin came ashore about 40 kilometers northeast of the city of Corpus Christi, and dumped as much as 18 centimeters of rain in the cities of Houston and San Antonio. One man was killed when heavy rain caused the roof of a Houston grocery store to collapse.

Forecasters say heavy rain from Erin could cause flooding in some areas already saturated by weeks of torrential storms.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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