Caribbean islands that were badly hit by Hurricane Irma are in the path of a new hurricane strengthening in the west Atlantic.

(SN) The National Hurricane Centre (NHC) predicts that Hurricane Maria, which is currently category one, is heading straight for the Leeward Islands.

Forecasters are warning it will probably be a major storm by the time it passes through the Leewards late on Monday (local time).

A map showing which Caribbean islands are affected by hurricane warnings

Many of the islands in its predicted path, including the British Virgin Islands, St Kitts and Nevis and Anguilla are still recovering after being battered by one of the strongest hurricanes in recorded history.

All three countries are on a hurricane warning or watch for Maria, along with Guadeloupe, Dominica and Martinique and the British overseas territory of Montserrat.

St Lucia, Antigua and Irma-ravaged Barbuda are on a warnings for winds of tropical storm strength.

The latest advisory from the NHC, issued at 11pm AST, says the storm is seeing sustained winds of up to 85mph (140km/h).

Sky News weather presenter Nazaneen Ghaffar said: “It is currently 90 miles northeast from Barbados and is forecast to track briskly northwestwards at 13mph over the next few days – following a similar track to Irma’s.

“It is expected to strengthen to a category two hurricane and then quickly to a category three as it slams the Leeward Islands and northern Windward Islands, with damaging winds, flooding, rainfall and storm surges, late on Monday and through Tuesday.

“Winds of 80mph are likely widely across these areas, but gusts up to 130mph are possible near the centre of Maria. This will cause damage to structures of buildings and trees as well as power lines that have only recently been affected by Hurricane Irma.

“This may also mean any loose objects that haven’t yet been removed from the clean-up of Irma may become airborne and turn into dangerous projectiles.

“During the middle of the week Hurricane Maria is then set to strengthen further to a category four – therefore winds could reach sustained strengths of 156mph as it heads to the British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and Hispaniola (Dominican Republic and Haiti).”

British troops and sailors have been helping to rebuild some of communities left shattered after category five Irma smashed through the Caribbean just over a week ago.

Sky’s Stuart Ramsey and Sam Kiley described the devastation in the British Virgin Islands after 185mph Irma passed through.

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