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Dorian strengthens to hurricane near U.S. and British Virgin Islands

Click to play video: 'Dorian hits Puerto Rico as a Category 1 hurricane' Dorian hits Puerto Rico as a Category 1 hurricane
ABOVE: Dorian hits Puerto Rico as a Category 1 hurricane – Aug 28, 2019

Dorian has intensified into a hurricane and is expected to continue strengthening during the next few days over the Atlantic waters, the National Hurricane Centre (NHC) said.

Hurricane Dorian was located near St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, with maximum sustained winds of 75 miles per hour (120 km/h), the Miami-based weather forecaster said on Wednesday.

“Dorian should continue to move near or over the U.S. and British Virgin Islands this afternoon and then move over the open Atlantic well east of the southeastern Bahamas,” the agency added.

Hurricane Dorian over the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico according to SkyTracker on the afternoon of Aug. 28, 2019. SkyTracker/GlobalNews

It is expected to hit eastern Puerto Rico with heavy wind and rain.

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Puerto Rico is still struggling to recover from back-to-back hurricanes in 2017, which killed about 3,000 people just months after it filed for bankruptcy.

WATCH: Puerto Rico residents continue preparations as Hurricane Dorian hits Virgin Islands

Click to play video: 'Puerto Rico residents continue preparations as Hurricane Dorian hits Virgin Islands' Puerto Rico residents continue preparations as Hurricane Dorian hits Virgin Islands
Puerto Rico residents continue preparations as Hurricane Dorian hits Virgin Islands – Aug 28, 2019

Dorian is approaching Puerto Rico from the southeast although it is blowing winds considerably less powerful than when Hurricane Maria hit the island in September 2017.

However, by the time Dorian hits Florida late on Sunday or Monday, it could be a major hurricane, according to NHC.

READ MORE: Puerto Rico declares state of emergency as tropical storm Dorian approaches

After approving an emergency declaration for Puerto Rico late on Tuesday, U.S. President Donald Trump took a swipe at the U.S. territory in a tweet on Wednesday morning.

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“Puerto Rico is one of the most corrupt places on earth. Their political system is broken and their politicians are either Incompetent or Corrupt. Congress approved Billions of Dollars last time, more than anyplace else has ever gotten, and it is sent to Crooked Pols. No good!” Trump wrote.

Trump has a history of disputes with Puerto Rico’s leaders. He was heavily criticized for a tepid response to the 2017 hurricanes that battered Puerto Rico.

This week, Democrats in the U.S. Congress also slammed him for shifting $271 million earmarked for disaster aid and cyber security to pay for detention facilities and courts for migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border.

WATCH: ‘This time, I’m preparing’: Puerto Rico hunkers down as Dorian nears

Click to play video: '‘This time, I’m preparing’: Puerto Rico hunkers down as Dorian nears' ‘This time, I’m preparing’: Puerto Rico hunkers down as Dorian nears
‘This time, I’m preparing’: Puerto Rico hunkers down as Dorian nears – Aug 28, 2019

House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, on Tuesday described the shift as “stealing from appropriated funds.”

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The NHC said Dorian was blowing maximum sustained winds of 75 mph (120 kph) on St. Thomas island in early afternoon.

BAD HISTORY

Two years ago, Puerto Rico was recovering from Hurricane Irma when Maria struck, destroying roads and bridges and leaving much of the Caribbean island without electricity for months.

“We are better prepared than when Hurricane Maria attacked our island,” Puerto Rico Governor Wanda Vazquez said on Tuesday.

Tropical Storm Dorian strengethened to a hurricane as it came over the U.S. Virgin Islands and neared Puerto Rico on the afternoon of Aug. 28, 2019. SkyTracker/Global News

Vazquez, who took office this month after political turmoil led to the resignation of her predecessor, said preparations for the storm were more than 90% complete.

Infrastructure ranging from electric power lines to telecommunications and banking networks were in better shape than they had been in 2017, she added.

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WATCH: Emergency declared in Puerto Rico as Tropical Storm Dorian approaches

Click to play video: 'Emergency declaration issued for Puerto Rico as residents brace for Tropical Storm Dorian' Emergency declaration issued for Puerto Rico as residents brace for Tropical Storm Dorian
Emergency declaration issued for Puerto Rico as residents brace for Tropical Storm Dorian – Aug 27, 2019

The U.S. response to Maria became highly politicized as the Trump administration was criticized as being slow to recognize the extent of the devastation and in providing disaster relief to Puerto Rico, an island of more than 3 million people. Trump later disputed Puerto Rico’s official death toll of 3,000.

Hogan Gidley, a White House deputy press secretary, accused Puerto Rican authorities on Wednesday of misusing taxpayer funds in the 2017 hurricanes.

WATCH: Puerto Rico braces for storm Dorian

Click to play video: 'Puerto Rico braces for storm Dorian' Puerto Rico braces for storm Dorian
Puerto Rico braces for storm Dorian – Aug 27, 2019

“The money we sent down there, we now know, several on the ground have been indicted for misusing that money, giving it to politicians as bonuses, watching that food rot in the ports, the water went bad,” he told reporters.

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Puerto Rican public schools are closed on Wednesday and public workers have been instructed to stay home, Vazquez said.

Royal Caribbean’s cruise liner “Allure of the Sea” canceled a scheduled visit to the island on Thursday, and Carnival Cruise Line also adjusted its itineraries, the governor said.

WATCH: Dorian slams into U.S. Virgin Islands as Category 1 hurricane on its way to Puerto Rico

Click to play video: 'Dorian slams into U.S. Virgin Islands as Category 1 hurricane on its way to Puerto Rico' Dorian slams into U.S. Virgin Islands as Category 1 hurricane on its way to Puerto Rico
Dorian slams into U.S. Virgin Islands as Category 1 hurricane on its way to Puerto Rico – Aug 28, 2019

A U.S. Air Force base in Cape Canaveral, Florida, home to the largest spaceport in the United States, entered the early stages of hurricane preparations Wednesday morning

“Teams will start preparing personnel and facilities for the possible arrival of the storm,” the base said in a statement.

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