U.S. forecasters say Hurricane Gustav's winds have strengthened to nearly 230
kilometers per hour as the deadly storm closes in on western Cuba.
U.S. National Hurricane Center has upgraded Gustav to a category four hurricane
on the scale that measures a storm's intensity.
At last report, the eye
of Gustav was expected to pass over western Cuba later on Saturday.
Forecasters say the storm could produce more than a
half-meter of rain in some parts of Cuba. It has claimed at least 80 lives in
Jamaica, Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
The hurricane center predicts
Gustav will move into the southern Gulf of Mexico early Sunday and the northern
Gulf by Monday morning.
Gustav is expected to strike the southern U.S.
somewhere from western Florida to Texas.
Some U.S. Gulf coast states
(Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas) have started evacuating
U.S. President George Bush declared a
federal state of emergency in the state of Louisiana, a likely target for the
storm. Its path may include the city of New Orleans, which was devastated by
Hurricane Katrina three years ago.
Separately, Tropical Storm Hanna is
expected to move near the Turks and Caicos Islands in the Caribbean late Sunday
or early Monday. Hanna had wind speeds of 85 kilometers per hour and also was
expected to strengthen.