Hurricane Tomas Batters Barbados

MIAMI (AFP) – Hurricane Tomas churned across the Caribbean on Sunday after battering Barbados and Saint Lucia with strong winds and heavy rains that damaged properties on the resort islands but caused no loss of life.

With maximum sustained winds of 160 kilometers (100 miles) per hour, Tomas was upgraded to a category two hurricane overnight and was now moving west into the open ocean, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center said.

Tropical storm force winds extended 280 kilometers (175 miles) from the center, about 250 kilometers (155 miles) west of Saint Lucia.

Tropical storm warnings remained in effect for Dominica, Martinique, Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. The warnings were expected to be dropped later in the day as the storm pulled away.

Tomas was tracking to hit Jamaica later in the week, but some models showed it veering by the weekend towards Haiti, where thousands were huddled in precarious tent cities since a devastating January 12 earthquake.

The water-logged Caribbean basin region has already endured a heavy 2010 rainy season, particularly for Central America and southern Mexico. The ground in many areas is saturated and more rain could easily trigger landslides and flooding.

Hurricane Shary was meanwhile downgraded as it reached the cold waters of the central Atlantic Ocean and its monitoring was discontinued, the NHC said.