Hurricane Gonzalo bears down on the Bahamas

Hurricane Gonzalo churned in the Atlantic, bringing intense winds and threatening to deluge the Bahamas, US forecasters said.

Washington: Hurricane Gonzalo churned in the Atlantic, bringing intense winds and threatening to deluge the Bahamas, US forecasters said.

A hurricane watch went up in Bermuda, which could feel the storm's fury by tomorrow, the Miami-based US National Hurricane Center said yesterday.

"A dangerous storm surge is expected to produce significant coastal flooding in Bermuda," the NHC said in a public advisory, adding that it expected large and destructive waves.

Gonzalo was already causing large swells in the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

The hurricane has been growing in power since skirting the Caribbean and heading into the open Atlantic on Tuesday on a track well off the North American mainland but projected to pass near Bermuda.

The hurricane center declared the storm a Category Three on the five-point Saffir-Simpson scale, meaning its high winds would wreak "devastating damage" if it touches land.

At 2100 GMT (0230 IST), the storm's top winds had reached 205 km/ph. It was located about 985 km southwest of Bermuda and was moving northwest at 17 km/h per hour, the NHC said.

Three people were reported missing in the islands of St Martin and St Barthelemy after the storm passed, and French authorities expressed concern about four other people they were trying to contact.

The missing were a man who fell off his boat in St Martin and two others who were trying to get back to their boat in St Barthelemy.

The storm caused property damage on both islands, which were battered by strong winds and heavy rains.

In St Barthelemy, a plane flipped on the airport's runway, while roads were blocked by fallen trees and telephone and power lines were torn from the ground.

Gonzalo is the seventh storm of the Atlantic season -- which stretches from June to November -- and the third hurricane to slam the Caribbean this year.

Hurricane Cristobal left at least four people dead in late August when it trashed the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos Islands and Dominican Republic with heavy rains causing serious flooding.

In September, Hurricane Edouard remained too far from land to cause any serious damage.

The NHC predicted that storm activity will be lower than average this year.