Felix forced tens of thousands of tourists and residents on the three islands off the coast of Venezuela to remain in their homes and hotels, stocked up with water, torchlights and emergency provisions.
 
Later on Sunday, the US national hurricane centre said Felix's winds had increased to nearly 220kph and was moving towards the west-northwest at about 32kph.
 
Saffir-Simpson Hurricane scale


Category 1 – Winds 119-153kph
Minor coastal flooding and structural damage

Category 2 – Winds 154-177kph
Damage to roofs, mobile homes and shanty houses. Some trees uprooted. Small boats may break moorings

Category 3 – Winds 178-209kph
Damage to buildings, mobile homes destroyed. Severe flooding near to coast

Category 4 – Winds 210-249kph
Major structural damage, roofs destroyed. Storm surge around 5m requiring widespread evacuation of coastal areas

Category 5 – Winds 249kph or higher
Serious damage to all but strongest buildings. Severe flooding far inland, all trees blown down. Storm surge up to 6m above normal

Forecasters said that after passing Curacao and Aruba, the storm was expected to spin over the open waters of the central Caribbean, before skirting Honduras's northern coastline on Tuesday and ploughing into Belize on Wednesday.
 
They said the storm was strengthening at one of the fastest rates seen and could intensify within 36 hours into a rare and potentially catastrophic Category 5 hurricane with winds over 250kph.
 
Such strong hurricanes have been rare in the past. Before the devastating 2005 hurricane season, only two years had seen more than one Category 5 hurricane. The 2005 season experienced four, including Katrina, Rita and Wilma.
 
Rebecca Waddington, a meteorologist at the hurricane centre, advised employees of oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico to monitor Felix's progress.
 
She said the storm could reach the area - where a third of US domestic crude oil and 15 per cent of natural gas production is located - in four to five days.
 
Energy markets have watched tropical storms and hurricanes since the Atlantic hurricane seasons of 2004 and 2005, when hurricanes Ivan, Katrina and Rita disrupted supplies.

The 2007 hurricane season is approaching its peak. Most storms occur between August 20 and mid-October, reaching a peak around September 10.