Tropical Storm Paloma has strengthened into a Category One hurricane as it heads towards the Cayman Islands, say forecasters in the US.
Residents of the Caymans have been advised to “rush to completion” efforts to protect life and property.
The authorities of Cuba and Jamaica have also been put on alert.
Paloma, which has maximum sustained winds of up to 75mph (120km/h), is the 16th tropical storm of the Atlantic storm season and the eighth hurricane.
The Miami-based US Hurricane Center said Paloma “continues to rapidly organise” and that additional strengthening was likely, with the storm predicted to become a Category Two hurricane on Friday.
At 0700 EST (0000 GMT ) Paloma was 165 miles (270km) south of Grand Cayman and about 280 miles (450km) west-southwest of Montego Bay in Jamaica, said the centre.
The Cayman Islands authorities have urged residents not to leave storm preparations to the last minute.
“History has taught us that we cannot afford complacency during hurricane season, for conditions can rapidly deteriorate,” said the islands’ top elected official, Kurt Tibbetts.
Heavy rainfall has already been reported in Honduras and Nicaragua.
“We are telling people in the area to leave the mountain areas, there are a lot of people at risk,” said Randolfo Funes, an official at Honduras’ rescue agency Copeco.
The 2008 hurricane season has been particularly active, including devastating storms that led to some 800 deaths in Haiti in September and August. <P
This article is from the BBC News website. © British Broadcasting Corporation
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