|Hurricane Irene triggered widespread flooding as it tore through the Dominican Republic on Monday [EPA]
Hurricane Irene tore through the Dominican Republic, is barreling over the Northwestern Bahamas and heading towards the coast of North Carolina.
The full effect of the storm on the Dominican Republic is now being seen. The filthy floodwaters roared down the hillsides, ripping down houses and trees on Monday. More than 2000 houses have been demolished in San Cristobal, just to the west of the capital of Santo Domingo - where a mixture of water and mud still covers the streets. Several people are missing.
Hurricane Irene did not make a direct hit on Cuba, but that did not stop the island from experiencing severe flooding. The worst hit area was the eastern province of Guantanamo, but here the residents had been evacuated, preventing any loss of life.
The storm is now moving north, pounding the Bahamas, with sustained winds of 185km per hour and torrentially heavy rains. It is likely that the islands will see up to 30cm of rain from this storm, which will cause widespread and serious flooding.
An additional threat to the low-lying islands is the dangerously high storm surge, which will raise water levels by almost four metres, with high waves on top of that.
The powerful hurricane will continue to move north over the next few days, and is expected to graze the coast of North Carolina on Sunday.
A hurricane watch has been issued for the North Carolina coast from north of Surf City up to the border with Virginia. A hurricane watch means that hurricane force winds are expected in the next 48 hours.
There is a mandatory evacuation of Ocracoke and Hatteras barrier islands, and elsewhere residents are being urged to either evacuate or buy enough provisions to last them for at least a week.
After hitting the coast of North Carolina, there is a risk that the storm could go on to hit New England and Long Island. By then the hurricane should weaken, but it could still cause considerable damage and extensive flooding.
The forecast for Hurricane Irene will be regularly updated in the coming days, so people along the whole of the east coast are being advised to keep a close eye on the weather.