Hurricane Matthew strengthens, brushing by Caribbean islands

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ORANJESTAD, Aruba (AP) – People in the Dutch Caribbean islands reinforced their homes and stocked up on emergency supplies Thursday as a strengthening Hurricane Matthew took a rare turn through the southern Caribbean ahead of an expected shift to the north.

Matthew was passing to the north of the islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao during the night and into Friday, before shifting on a course predicted to take it toward Jamaica, Cuba and Haiti late in the weekend.

By late Thursday, Aruba was seeing some rain and sea surge covered part of a road on the northwest side of the island. There were no reports of evacuations. In Curacao, some streets flooded, and there was a light rain falling on Bonaire.

The so-called “ABC islands” of the Dutch Caribbean, which were under a tropical storm watch, 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 Curacao’s parliamentary elections were postponed until next week.

The government of Colombia also issued a tropical storm watch for its coast from Riohach to the Venezuelan border.

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

At 11 p.m. EDT (0300 GMT), the storm had maximum sustained winds of 80 mph (130 kph) and was centered 125 miles (200 kilometers) north of Curacao, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami. It was traveling westward at 14 mph (22 kph).

Hurricane-force winds extended out for 45 miles (75 kilometers) and tropical storm-force winds extended outward up to 185 miles (295 kilometers).

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