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Irma Downgraded to Category-3 Storm, Expected to Regain Strength | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Palm trees sway in the wind prior to the arrival of the Hurricane Irma in Caibarien, Cuba, September 8, 2017. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini

Hurricane Irma has lost some strength as it batters the north coast of Cuba, dpa cited the National Hurricane Center as saying.

The massive storm weakened to a category-3 hurricane with 205-kilometre-per-hour (kph) winds, the center said in its 11 am (1500 GMT) advisory.

“Irma is forecast to restrengthen once it moves away from Cuba, and Irma is expected to remain a powerful hurricane as it approaches Florida,” the center said.

Hurricane-force winds extend outward from the center of the storm up to 110 kilometers away, while tropical storm-force winds extend outward up to 315 kilometers.

Irma pounded Cuba’s northern coast on Saturday and barreled toward Florida as authorities scrambled to complete an unprecedented evacuation of millions of residents hours before the storm would engulf the state.

The outer band of Irma, which has killed at least 22 people in the Caribbean, was already lashing South Florida with tropical storm-force winds and left nearly 25,000 people without power, Governor Rick Scott said.

The brunt of the hurricane, one of the fiercest Atlantic storms in a century, is due to arrive in Florida early Sunday.

Irma could inflict major damage on the fourth-largest US state by population, which is braced for winds well in excess of 100 miles per hour and a huge storm surge that could trigger coastal flooding.