Hurricane Maria upgraded to category three storm heading to Caribbean

Philip Whiteside, News Reporter

A new major hurricane that is heading for already destroyed islands in the Caribbean has been upgraded to a category three storm.

The National Hurricane Centre (NHC) predicts that Hurricane Maria is heading straight for the Leeward Islands - and could get even stronger.

It has the power to further ravage islands that were badly hit by Hurricane Irma.

It is due to hit the Leewards late on Monday, local time.

Many of the islands in its predicted path, including the British Virgin Islands, St Kitts and Nevis and Anguilla are still recovering after being battered by one of the strongest hurricanes in recorded history.

All three countries are on a hurricane warning or watch for Maria, along with Guadeloupe, Dominica and Martinique and the British overseas territory of Montserrat.

St Lucia, Antigua and Irma-ravaged Barbuda are on a warnings for winds of tropical storm strength.

The latest advisory from the NHC says Maria will be an "extremely dangerous major hurricane" by the time it reaches the British Virgin Islands.

Sky News weather presenter Nazaneen Ghaffar said: "It is currently 90 miles northeast from Barbados and is forecast to track briskly northwestwards at 13mph over the next few days - following a similar track to Irma's.

"It is expected to strengthen to a category two hurricane and then quickly to a category three as it slams the Leeward Islands and northern Windward Islands, with damaging winds, flooding, rainfall and storm surges, late on Monday and through Tuesday.

"Winds of 80mph are likely widely across these areas, but gusts up to 130mph are possible near the centre of Maria. This will cause damage to structures of buildings and trees as well as power lines that have only recently been affected by Hurricane Irma.

"This may also mean any loose objects that haven't yet been removed from the clean-up of Irma may become airborne and turn into dangerous projectiles.

"During the middle of the week Hurricane Maria is then set to strengthen further to a category four - therefore winds could reach sustained strengths of 156mph as it heads to the British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and Hispaniola (Dominican Republic and Haiti)."

British troops and sailors have been helping to rebuild some of communities left shattered after category five Irma smashed through the Caribbean just over a week ago.

Sky's Stuart Ramsey and Sam Kiley described the devastation in the British Virgin Islands after 185mph Irma passed through.

Theresa May has said she is "frustrated" with international rules which stop British aid money being spent on the relief effort for the hurricane, which left more the 40 people dead in the Caribbean and a similar number in the US.

Category one Hurricane Jose also remains in the east Atlantic, having turned north after leaving the Caribbean. It is off the coast of North Carolina.

As well as Hurricane Irma, America is also grappling with the impact of Hurricane Harvey, which left significant amounts of Texas under water due to excessively heavy rain.

British insurers Hiscox said the devastation wreaked by Harvey on the US will cost it £110m ($150m) in claims, based on expected total damage worth £18bn ($25bn).