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Hurricane Erika Headed for Montserrat, Antigua

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SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO (AP) — HurricaneErika, bringing 80-mphwinds, high swells and heavy rain, took aim at the northeastCaribbean today, sending yachts to anchor and people on landscurrying for emergency rations.

Among threatened islands was volcano-plagued Montserrat, whereofficials inspected shelters already overcrowded with displacedpeople. Up to 10 inches of rain was forecast, and the hurricanecould gain force today, the weather service warned.

In radio broadcasts, governments urged islanders to hurrythrough their preparations in Antigua, Montserrat, Barbuda, Nevis,St. Kitts, Anguilla, St. Barthelemy and St. Martin, where hurricaneconditions were expected today.

Puerto Rico and the U.S. and British Virgin Islands were underahurricane watch. But Puerto Rican officials said the U.S.commonwealth should experience only tropical storm-force winds,under 74 mph.

At 5 a.m. EDT, Erika was centered about 110 miles northeast ofAntigua. The hurricane was moving west-northwest at about 12 mphwith winds near 80 mph.

The hurricane's center was expected to arrive within a fewmilesof Antigua this morning, forecaster Andy Roche said at the U.S.National Weather Service bureau in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

``I'm scared,'' Irene Riley said in Montserrat, where she andher three children live in a wooden home. ``I'm just prepared toget rid of some of my personal stuff and head out of Montserrat.''

About 5,000 people already are squeezed into homes and sheltersin a northern safe zone on Montserrat, after recent volcaniceruptions from the Soufriere Hills forced an evacuation of thesouthern part of the island.

Authorities in Anguilla, citing damage caused by hurricanes in1995 and 1996, said they would turn off the island's power supplyif winds gusted to 50 mph. That would deprive the British colony oftelevision coverage of Princess Diana's funeral in London.

In Charlotte-Amalie, capital of the U.S. Virgin Islands,residents prepared to move to shelters from some homes stillcovered by tarpaulins replacing roofs torn off by Hurricane Marilynin 1995.

Erika was the third hurricane of the Atlantic season. In July,Hurricane Billy dispersed harmlessly in the Atlantic, but HurricaneDanny caused flooding in Alabama and South Carolina.

By MICHELLE FAUL,Associated Press WriterCopyright ©1997 AssociatedPress. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast,rewritten, or distributed.

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