Page last updated at 10:14 GMT, Thursday, 16 October 2008 11:14 UK

Hurricane fears ease in Caribbean

Waterfront of Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas, US Virgin Islands on 15/10/08
The Virgin Islands have been battered by Hurricane Omar's rains and winds

Small islands in the north-east Caribbean remain on alert but the worst of Hurricane Omar may now be over for them, forecasters have said.

They said the category-three storm was rapidly moving away from the northern Leeward Islands out to sea.

A hurricane warning has now been discontinued for the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, where one person has died.

The 2008 hurricane season has been active, including devastating storms that led to some 800 deaths in Haiti.

By 0900 GMT, the centre of Omar was about 70 miles (110km) north of the Leeward Island of St Martin and moving rapidly away, the Miami-based US National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.

Hurricane warnings remained in place for islands of St Martin, Saba, St Eustatius, St Barthelemy and Anguilla as well as St Kitts and Nevis.

However, the warning for the US and British Virgin Islands and the Puerto Rican islands of Vieques and Culebra had been discontinued, the NHC said.

Forecasters repeated their concern that Omar could still dump as much as 20 inches (51cm) of rain and bring wave surges of up to six feet (1.8m) across the northern Leeward Islands.

Boats sink

Earlier, heavy rains and winds battered the US Virgin Island of St Croix, sinking boats in the harbour, felling trees and forcing workers to shut down a major oil refinery.

Map of Hurricane Omar's path

At the Caravelle Hotel, maintenance worker Mike Parish was working by the light from generators in a vain effort to keep rain water from blowing in beneath the door after the authorities cut electricity across the island as a precaution.

"We're doing all we can," he said. "The water is too much for us."

US Virgin Islands Governor John deJongh on Wednesday closed all public schools, sent home government employees and imposed an 1800 curfew across the islands, warning people to "take this very seriously".

In Puerto Rico, flights were grounded, and schools, government offices and most businesses shut down as residents bought up drinking water, canned goods and other supplies.

On Culebra in Puerto Rico, a man collapsed as he tried to install storm shutters on his house, the Associated Press reported.

On Vieques, the storm flooded roads and downed tree branches.

Earlier, Omar dumped rain on northern Venezuela and nearby islands.

Animated guide: Hurricanes
01 Jun 05 |  Science & Environment

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