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Noel Strengthens Into Hurricane

The National Hurricane Center says Hurricane Noel has strengthened into a hurricane and now has sustained winds near 120 kilometers per hour as it moves northeast from the Bahamas toward Bermuda.

Forecasters said at about midnight UTC Thursday that a hurricane watch remains in effect for the northwestern Bahamas, which could receive as much as 46 centimeters of rain.

Before reaching hurricane strength, Noel killed more than 100 people across the Caribbean earlier. The tropical storm caused mudslides and flash floods across Haiti and the Dominican Republic on the island of Hispaniola and soaked Cuba.

Sixty-six died in the Dominican Republic, where President Leonel Fernandez declared a state of emergency. At least one entire village was swept away by floodwaters, and rescuers have been unable to reach several other villages.

Thirty four people were killed in Haiti, where hundreds of homes were destroyed and thousands left homeless. One fatality was reported in Jamaica.

The United Nations mission in Haiti says peacekeeping troops helped evacuate thousands of people in the storm's path. The U.N. says soldiers assisted in food distribution and provided medical assistance to those affected.

Noel is the 14th named storm of this year's Atlantic hurricane season, which began June 1 and runs through November 30.

Some information for this report provided by AP and Reuters.