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Storm Noel intensifies, tracks Cuba's northeast coast
Tropical Storm Noel gained strength as it tracked along the northeastern coast of Cuba after bringing deadly rains to the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

The system's maximum sustained winds intensified to 95 kilometers (60 miles) an hour from 55 kph three hours earlier, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said in an advisory shortly before 5 a.m. Miami time. Noel was located ``very near'' the town of Gibara on Cuba's northern coast, and moving west at 19 kph, with a turn to the northwest forecast for later today.

Noel yesterday swept across the island of Hispaniola, which is split between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Up to 25 centimeters (10 inches) of rain fell in a day in the Dominican Republic, causing flooding that left at least 10 people dead and four missing, according to the Web site of President Leonel Fernandez. The Associated Press put the toll at 20 dead.

Noel is forecast to turn north, then northeast over the next three days, passing over the northern Bahamas, while avoiding landfall in Florida. The storm may bring total rain of up to 76 centimeters in parts of Hispaniola, and 38 centimeters in southeast Cuba, and the central and southern Bahamas, the U.S. center said.

A tropical storm warning was in place across the Bahamas, and Noel was about 435 km south-southeast of the island nation's capital, Nassau, the hurricane center said. A tropical storm watch may be needed for southeastern Florida later today, it added. A tropical storm warning is an indication that winds of 63 to 118 kph are expected within the next day. A watch indicates such conditions are possible within 36 hours.

Source: By Alex Morales, Bloomberg

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