Storm Humberto strengthens but moves away from Bahamas and US

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A satellite image of tropical storm Humberto on September 15, 2019

A satellite image of tropical storm Humberto on September 15, 2019 (AFP Photo/HO)

Miami (AFP) - Tropical storm Humberto gained strength Sunday and was expected to return to hurricane force by evening, but its track now puts it far from the Bahamas and the US coast, the US National Hurricane Center said.

As of midday, Humberto was 180 miles (290 kilometers) northwest of Great Abaco Island, which was devastated two weeks ago by the passage of Hurricane Dorian, and 165 miles northeast of Cape Canaveral, Florida, the NHC said in an update at 15H00 GMT.

It had maximum sustained winds of 65 miles per hour, slightly below hurricane strength, but was expected to gain power through the day.

"Humberto is expected to become a hurricane by tonight," the NHC said.

It warned beachgoers in the US states of Florida and North Carolina that heavy swells "could cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions."

But its peripheral winds were not expected to pose any danger to land.

On Monday, Humberto is expected to take a sharp turn to the northeast, moving it even farther from land.

- Guterres 'horrified' -

On Saturday the storm swept past the northern Bahamas, but without the torrential rains or devastating winds that Dorian had brought earlier in the month.

Dorian, a mammoth storm of historic magnitude, left at least 52 people dead, with as many as 1,300 still listed as missing.

More than 7,000 inhabitants of the Abacos or Grand Bahama lost their homes, and 2,000 are still living in shelters.

Aid has poured in from foreign countries and international aid groups, though Humberto delayed some shipments.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres visited the islands on Saturday.

He said he was "horrified" by the level of destruction, and he called for more urgent international action to curb climate change.

"We need to make sure that we reverse the present trend, where climate change is running faster than what we are," he said.