Hurricane Irene affects Caribbean flights

Flights to and from the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, the Dominican Republic and Haiti have been cancelled and airports have closed as Hurricane Irene gathers momentum.

Cruise ships in the Caribbean have also been amending itineraries.

Airlines have waived penalties and change fees for travel in up until August 26.

The category 2 hurricane hit Puerto Rico on Monday, cutting power to more than a million people.  One death was reported as a woman was swept away in Puerto Rico.

Top winds reached speeds of 100 miles per hour, according to the US National Hurricane Centre, as it blew across the resort-dotted Dominican Republic’s northeast coast
on Tuesday before pounding the Turks and Caicos Islands with winds and rain.

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It is expected to reach the Bahamas today as a category 3 hurricane, having picked up speeds again. The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism has urged travellers to postpone their trips to the Bahamas for the rest of this week.

The storm is forecast to approach the coast of the Carolinas, Florida and Georgia at the end of the week.

As the US has been put on high alert, a 5.9-magnitude earthquake that was centred in Virginia shook up the east coast on Tuesday, with the tremors rippling from North Carolina as far as Toronto. This was one of the most powerful earthquakes on the east coast of the US since 1897, according to USGS records.

Hurricane Irene is the first Atlantic hurricane of the 2011 season, which officially began on June 1st and will end in November looks set to be the first hurricane to hit the US since Hurricane Ike which hit Texas in 2008.

In January 2010 a hurricane struck in Haiti and killed as many as 230,000 people, leaving more than 1 million homeless.