Roseau: At least three were reported dead in the island country of Dominica Thursday as Tropical Storm Erika continued powering toward Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
Many others were reported missing in Dominica and the storm has caused widespread flooding there, according to local media reports.
The bodies of an elderly man and two children were pulled from floods and mudslides in the town of Good Hope and officials expected the death toll to rise considerably in the tiny nation, the website TheDominican.net reported Thursday.
The storm was centered some 160 miles (255 kilometers) west of Guadeloupe and was expected to turn toward the west-northwest later in the day, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Erika has weakened slightly, with maximum sustained winds near 45 miles per hour (75 kilometers per hour), but tropical storm warnings remained in place for much of the Leeward Islands.
"On the forecast track, the center of Erika will move near the Virgin Islands later today, move near or over Puerto Rico tonight, and move near or over the Dominican Republic on Friday," the NHC said in its latest update.
Previous updates had forecast the storm would pass north of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
Through Saturday, rainfall of up to 12 inches (30 centimeters) is possible across portions of the Leeward Islands, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Turks and Caicos and the southeast Bahamas, the forecasters warned.
As a precaution, authorities in Puerto Rico closed schools and suspended maritime traffic in the east.
"It is a system that is expected to bring much rain, it`s what concerns us most," Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla told reporters.
"We must be prepared for the worst."
On its current trajectory, NHC models show that Erika could impact Florida as a hurricane by early Monday.
In the Pacific, meanwhile, Hurricane Ignacio churned some 1,135 miles east-southeast of Hilo, Hawaii.