Hurricane Maria intensifies, now a Category 3 hurricane

Sept 18 (Reuters) - Hurricane Maria has strengthened into a major hurricane and is expected to intensify further as it moves through the Leeward Islands and the northeastern Caribbean Sea, the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said on Monday.

Maria, now a Category 3 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, was about 95 miles (150 km) east-southeast of Dominica and was carrying maximum sustained winds of 120 miles per hour (195 km per hour), it said.

"The center of Maria will move across the Leeward Islands on Monday night, over the extreme northeastern Caribbean Sea Tuesday and Tuesday night, and approach Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands on Wednesday," the NHC added. (Reporting by Vijaykumar Vedala and Karen Rodrigues in Bengaluru; Editing by Frances Kerry)

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