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Hurricane Wilma becomes most intense storm ever in region

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Washington (dpa) - Hurricane Wilma rapidly picked up speed early Wednesday and has become the most intense storm on record in the Atlantic, the National Hurricane Center said.
Within less than 24 hours, Wilma grew from a tropical storm with winds of 110 kilometres per hour to a ''potentially catastrophic'' hurricane of the highest category, packing winds of 280 kilometres per hour with higher gusts.

With 882 millibars the storm also features the lowest central pressure in history, according to the Miami-based National Hurricane Center.

All eyes are now on the path of the storm. The latest prediction has Wilma moving between the eastern tip of Cuba and Mexico without making landfall in either country, although hurricane watches are in effect in both.

The storm is then believed to turn in a northeastern direction and head for the west coast of the Florida peninsula. dpa re sc

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