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Hurricane Maria nears Turks and Caicos

WARNING: Maria totally engulfed Puerto Rico on September 20. (Photo credit: NASA Earth Observatory images by Joshua Stevens)

HURRICANE MARIA is nearing the Turks and Caicos Islands as it continues its destructive path across the Caribbean, the BBC reports.

The category 3 storm is east of the island of Grand Turk with winds of 205km/h (125mph), the US National Hurricane Center says.

Puerto Rico has completely lost power, and is being subjected to heavy rain and flooding, with possible mudslides. Two people are confirmed to have died there, bringing the death toll so far across the region to 19.

At least 15 lost their lives in Dominica, and 20 are still missing after the storm swept through on Monday. Two others died on the island of Guadeloupe.

Hurricane warnings are in place for British territory the Turks and Caicos and the south-eastern Bahamas, where the storm is heading next.

Officials in the Turks and Caicos have opened new shelters as several used during Hurricane Irma earlier this month are not expected to withstand further damage, AFP reported.

After Hurricane Irma, Maria is the second major storm to hit the Caribbean this year.

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