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US on alert as Hurricane Earl wrecks Caribbean homes

Hurricane Earl battered tiny islands across the north-eastern Caribbean with heavy rain and roof-ripping winds as it rapidly grew into a major Category 4 storm, threatening the US.

Already dangerous with sustained winds of 135mph, Earl was expected to gain more strength before potentially brushing the US East Coast this week and bringing deadly rip currents.

The US National Hurricane Centre warned coastal residents from North Carolina to Maine to be vigilant.

In the Caribbean, Earl caused flooding in low-lying areas and damaged homes on islands including Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla and St Maarten. Cruise ships were diverted and flights cancelled across the region.

The storm's centre passed just north of the British Virgin Islands last night. Earl is forecast to approach the US Mid-Atlantic region around Thursday, before curving back out to sea, potentially swiping New England or far-eastern Canada.

hnews@herald.ie