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Alex Becomes First Atlantic Hurricane Of Season


Tropical Storm Alex has become the first hurricane of the Atlantic and Caribbean season and is heading for the Mexico-Texas border.

U.S. President Barack Obama has declared a state of emergency in the parts of Texas predicted to be hit, which will allow the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate disaster relief efforts.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami says the first June Atlantic hurricane since 1995 is not on track to hit U.S. oil spill cleanup operations in the Gulf of Mexico. However, the U.S. Coast Guard said oil skimming operations have been suspended because the storm is causing rough waters and high winds.

The National Hurricane Center said early Wednesday the storm's winds had increased to 130 kilometers per hour. It predicts wind speeds will continue to increase as Alex moves toward the Mexico-Texas border. The center says the storm could hit land as soon as Wednesday night.

The U.S. Coast Guard has said the storm is generating waves of more than three meters, making conditions too rough for oil skimmers and other cleaning vessels near the oil spill site to operate safely. A Coast Guard spokeswoman tells VOA that oil collection and burning operations at the well site are continuing.

The State Department announced Tuesday that the United States will accept 22 offers of assistance from 12 countries and international bodies to help clean up the spill. Officials issued a statement saying the U.S. is working out the specifics of the help accepted.

An April 20 explosion on a rig leased by BP killed 11 people and caused the leak that has been pouring tens of thousands of barrels of crude each day into the Gulf.

Large patches of oil have washed up on the shores of Mississippi for the first time. In addition to Mississippi, oil has washed up along the coasts of Florida and Alabama, as well as in the hardest-hit wetlands of Louisiana.

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