Hurricane Maria hits land as deadly CATEGORY 5 storm

Hurricane Maria hits land as deadly CATEGORY 5 storm

Ms Patel said British troops, police and aid experts were "working relentlessly" to help the victims of Hurricane Irma.

Maria may begin affecting parts of the Leeward Islands as early as Monday afternoon, and could approach Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands by Wednesday.

The storm keeps strengthening as it makes its way towards the Caribbean islands, and it's expected to become a Category 4 hurricane when it hits the Leeward Islands in the following days.

The tiny island of Barbuda was decimated by Hurricane Irma on September 5-6 when it made its first landfall in the Caribbean as a top-intensity Category Five storm.

Air Force "hurricane hunter" flights report that Maria could be close to Category 5 strength before the system arrives in Puerto Rico by Wednesday.

Warnings were also triggered for Dominica, St Kitts and Nevis and the British island of Montserrat.

The NHC said the British Virgin Islands were at risk of being hit by a unsafe storm surge with destructive waves raising the water level up to 9ft (2.7m).

In this photo A auto passes next to a banner warning of a "Red Alert" for rains as Hurricane Maria approaches in Pointe-a-Pitre.

A private Catholic university in Florida has chartered a plane to fly students out of the Caribbean island of St. Croix as it braces for Maria. The storm was predicted to bring 15 to 30 centimetres of rain across the islands, with more in isolated areas.

Hurricane warnings were posted for the US and British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Guadeloupe, Dominica, St. Kitts, Nevis and Montserrat and tropical storm warnings were issued for Antigua and Barbuda, Saba, St. Eustatius, St. Maarten, St. Lucia, Martinique and Anguilla.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says the storm is "catastrophic" and headed for the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Some team members are from the same team that recently returned on Saturday from Puerto Rico.

However, Puerto Rico's official had a more intense warning for his residents.

Maria is the seventh hurricane in the Atlantic this season.

Farther north, long-lived Hurricane Jose continued to head northward off the U.S. East Coast, causing risky surf and rip currents.

Dominican authorities had closed schools and government offices and urged people to move from risky areas to shelters.

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