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Hurricane Irene heads for Haiti after direct hit on Puerto Rico

Tropical storm Irene was upgraded to a hurricane overnight Sunday, and may reach the United States east coast by Wednesday.

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(Antler)

Hurricane Irene is heading towards the Dominican Republic and Haiti, after pounding Puerto Rico overnight Sunday.

The first Atlantic hurricane of the season left more than a million Puerto Ricans without power as it flooded streets, knocked down trees and caused rivers to break their banks. The Associated Press said there were no immediate reports of deaths.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami says Haiti — where hundreds of thousands of people still live in tents after an earthquake last year killed up to 230,000 people — is directly in Irene's path.

Haiti suffers from extensive deforestation and poor infrastructure, is vulnerable to heavy rains. In June more than 20 Haitians were killed by mudslides and flash flooding.

The International Business Times said Irene could strike Florida as early as Wednesday night, as a category 2 storm. Forecast models indicated the state was at risk of days of heavy, damaging winds and rain.

Other projections say Irene could hit Georgia and the Carolinas by the end of the week.

Forecasters had earlier predicted Irene would pass south of Puerto Rico, but the storm shifted north and instead passed directly over the island, sustaining winds of up to 75 miles per hour.

Dozens of Puerto Ricans sought emergency shelter ahead of Irene, which was expected to dump up to 10 inches of rain.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/united-states/110822/hurricane-irene-haiti-florida-puerto-rico