Hurricane Irene batters smaller islands of Bahamas

There were no immediate reports of major injuries or deaths from Irene yesterday but property damage appeared likely to be extensive on Acklins and Crooked islands, in the southern part of the chain, said Capt Stephen Russell, director of the country's National Emergency Management Agency.

A settlement known as Lovely Bay was destroyed while at least 40 homes were badly damaged on the island of Mayaguana, the agency said. Authorities were still gathering damage reports and there were few details on the destruction.

Major damage was also anticipated on the island of Eleuthera, which was being battered this morning, as well as Rum Cay and Cat Island.

All were expected to have full and extended exposure to Hurricane Irene's powerful winds, which had weakened slightly today to 185 kph.

"That can be devastating for some of those islands," Russell said.The US National Hurricane Centre in Miami, Florida, today warned that an "extremely dangerous storm surge will raise water levels by as much as 2 to 3 meters above normal tide levels over the Bahamas."

"The surge will be accompanied by large and dangerous waves," and Irene is expected to dump from 15 to 30 centimeters of rain on the islands over the next day and a half, the centre said on its website.

Irene's core was forecast to continue moving over the northwestern Bahamas today before heading north toward the US coast, with its current path possibly bringing it to North Carolina's Outer Banks by tomorrow afternoon.

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