The Latest: Hurricane Matthew heads toward central Caribbean

MIAMI (AP) " The Latest on Hurricane Matthew in the Caribbean (all times local):

4:50 p.m.

Forecasters in Miami say new Hurricane Matthew is heading toward the central Caribbean.

The National Hurricane Center said the storm is packing top sustained winds of 75 mph (120 kph) as of late Thursday afternoon. It is currently about 150 miles (240 kilometers) north-northeast of the island of Curacao and heading west at 17 mph (28 kph).

The center said Matthew is expected to strengthening gradually over the next 48 hours with some decrease in forward speed.

Colombia's government recently issued a tropical storm watch for its Caribbean coast from its border with Venezuela to Riohacha. A tropical storm watch also is in effect for the islands of Curacao, Bonaire and Aruba.

In addition to Caribbean coastal dwellers in Venezuela and Colombia, the hurricane center said, people in Jamaica, eastern Cuba, Haiti and the Dominical Republic should be watching the progress of the storm.

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1:42 p.m.

Forecasters in Miami say Matthew has strengthened into a hurricane as the storm continues its westward trek across the eastern Caribbean.

The National Hurricane Center said Matthew, previously a tropical storm, now has top sustained winds of 75 mph (120 kph) as of Thursday afternoon. It is moving westward at 17 mph (28 kph) and is centered about 190 miles (300 kilometers) northeast of the island of Curacao.

A tropical storm watch is in effect for Curacao and the islands of Bonaire and Aruba. Forecasters say people along the coasts of Venezuela and Colombia should be among those who are watching the progress of the storm.

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10:52 a.m.

The southern Caribbean islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao are bracing for a rare brush with a tropical storm.

People across the three Dutch Caribbean islands were stocking up on fuel and other emergency supplies Thursday as Tropical Storm Matthew approached. Weather authorities say the storm is likely to become a hurricane and pass north of the islands.

The so-called "ABC Islands" of the Southern Caribbean are outside of the hurricane belt and rarely get a direct hit from a storm. Aruba's weather service said the storm is expected to pass about 125 miles (200 kilometers) to the north.

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

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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