Aruba (The Netherlands) + 9 more

Emily becomes hurricane, threatens Caribbean isles

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, July 13 (Reuters) - The fifth storm of the Atlantic hurricane season grew into a hurricane on Wednesday as it churned through the Windward Islands of the eastern Caribbean.

Emily's sustained winds hit 90 mph (144 kph) as it approached Grenada and St. Vincent and the Grenadines and threatened Venezuela and the Netherlands Antilles.

At 11 p.m. EDT on Wednesday (0300 GMT on Thursday), the center of Hurricane Emily was about 45 miles (72 km) east-southeast of Grenada and moving to the west at 18 mph (29 kph), the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

Storm warnings for Barbados were discontinued as the storm swept well to the south of the island.

But the storm moved close to Grenada, which was devastated by Hurricane Ivan last September.

Ivan damaged or destroyed more than 90 percent of the houses on the island.

Residents of neighboring St. Vincent and the Grenadines and St. Lucia were also told to expect hurricane conditions.

Trinidad and Tobago and the north coast of Venezuela were under tropical storm warnings and residents of the Dutch islands Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao were told to expect tropical storm conditions.

On its current track, Emily was expected move quickly through the Caribbean Sea and pass south of Jamaica on Saturday. It would reach the coast of Mexico's Yucatan peninsula on Monday.

Emily followed Hurricane Dennis, which killed at least 70 people as it ripped past Haiti and Jamaica, roared over Cuba and hit the U.S. Gulf coast near Pensacola, Florida, on Sunday.

Authorities say the storm killed 44 people in Haiti, 16 in Cuba and one in Jamaica. U.S. officials say it was responsible for seven deaths in Florida, one in Mississippi and one in Georgia.

In the Gulf of Mexico, engineers were scrambling to right the world's largest semi-submersible oil platform, the $1 billion Thunder Horse, which is tilting precariously following the passing of Dennis, before another storm arrives.

Owner BP Plc <BP.L> said on Wednesday the platform was listing 20 degrees with its lower deck almost touching the water. Thunder Horse was planned to come on stream this year and pump 250,000 barrels of oil per day at peak, and large quantities of natural gas.

(Additional reporting by Tom Bergin in London)


Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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