Southern Caribbean braces for brush with Hurricane Matthew

ORANJESTAD, Aruba (AP) — People in the Dutch Caribbean islands reinforced their homes and stocked up on emergency supplies Thursday as Hurricane Matthew took a rare course through the Southern Caribbean.

Hurricane Matthew was expected to pass to the north of the islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao, before shifting on a course that was expected to take it toward Jamaica, Cuba and Haiti over the weekend.

The so-called “ABC islands” of the Dutch Caribbean are outside the hurricane belt and are usually spared from tropical storms. Matthew’s approach prompted long lines at gas stations and supermarkets. Authorities in Aruba said government offices would be closed Friday and in Curacao parliamentary elections were postponed until next week.

The Aruba weather service said the storm was expected to pass about 125 miles (200 kilometers) north of the island.

Matthew passed over the eastern Caribbean on Wednesday, causing at least one death. Officials in St. Vincent say a 16-year-old boy was crushed by a boulder as he tried to clear a blocked drain.

At 2 p.m. EDT (1800 GMT), the storm had maximum sustained winds of 75mph (120 kph) and was centered 190 miles (300 kilometers) northeast of Curacao, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami.

Hurricane-force winds extended out for 70 miles (110 kilometers) and tropical storm-force winds extended outward up to 205 miles (335 kilometers). It was forecast to become a hurricane later Thursday, then turn to the north and head toward Jamaica, Cuba and Haiti.

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