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St. Lucia, Martinique shut schools as Storm Bret churns closer


(Reuters) – The Caribbean islands of St. Lucia and Martinique will shut down schools and nurseries tomorrow ahead of the arrival of one of the season’s first tropical storms, officials said on Wednesday.

The storm is forecast to move across the area late on Thursday.

“After 21 days into the hurricane season an unusually early tropical system has emerged over the Atlantic as Tropical Storm Bret,” St. Lucia Prime Minister Philip Pierre said on Wednesday.

Pierre said all schools and nurseries would close on Thursday, as well as businesses and government offices from 1 p.m. The country’s two airports will also shut from 10.30 a.m., he added, in line with advice from aviation authorities.

In the neighboring French territory of Martinique, authorities announced that schools and nurseries would also shut on Thursday, but businesses could remain open.

Officials also canceled planned outdoor public events.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) has placed both eastern Caribbean islands under a tropical storm warning, and Barbados, Dominica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines under its watch area.

“Bret is forecast to approach the Lesser Antilles through Thursday and then move across those islands late Thursday and Thursday night as a strong tropical storm,” according to the NHC.

The Miami-based center predicted the storm will likely maintain its current intensity before weakening after it crosses the island chain. The storm packed maximum sustained winds of 100km per hour (62 mph).

Risks include flooding from heavy rains, strong winds and dangerous waves along the coast, the NHC warned, noting it is still to early to specify exact locations and the magnitude of the potential dangers.

Earlier this month, Tropical Storm Arlene formed over the Gulf of Mexico but was downgraded as it edged towards the south Florida coast.

(Reporting by Sarah Morland; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)

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