Hurricane Irene – the first of the Atlantic hurricane season – has left Puerto Rico and is now approaching the Dominican Republic (DR) and the northern coast of Haiti.
(DR and Haiti share the island of Hispaniola).
A hurricane watch has also been issued for the central Bahamas.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami warned that Irene carries maximum wind speeds of up to 130 miles per hour.
Haiti, which suffers from poor infrastructure and deforestation, is particularly vulnerable to flooding. In June, almost two dozen people in Haiti died from flash flooding and mudslides.
In addition, Haitians are still reeling from the devastation of the earthquake from January 2010 – more than 600,000 homeless people are still living in makeshift camps.
Irene has already wreaked significant havoc on Puerto Rico –cutting power to more than one million people, downing power lines and trees and flooding roadways.
The governor or Puerto Rico has declared a state of emergency, although no deaths or serious injuries have yet been reported in connection with the storm. He also asked residents to remain indoors.
By the end of the week Irene may touch the southeastern coast of the U.S., including Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas.