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Hurricane Irma: Caribbean islands brace for powerful storm

The view inside Hurricane IrmaHurricane Irma has been upgraded to a powerful category four storm as warnings have been issued for several Caribbean islands.The hurricane had sustained winds of up to 220km/h (140mph) and was likely to strengthen in the next 48 hours, the US National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.Irma was projected to hit the Leeward Islands, causing storm surges, life-threatening winds and torrential rain.The US state of Florida has declared a state of emergency.It comes as residents in Texas and Louisiana are reeling from the effects of Hurricane Harvey, which struck as a category four storm, causing heavy rain and destroying thousands of homes.However the NHC warned that it was too early to forecast Irma's exact path or effects on the continental US.

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Irma was set to reach the Leeward Islands, east of Puerto Rico, by late Tuesday or early Wednesday (local time), the centre added. The storm was moving at a speed of 20km/h (13mph).

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