Hurricane Lorenzo has powered across the Atlantic Ocean, lashing the Azores with heavy rain, powerful winds and high waves, and significantly damaging one island’s main port.
The Azores Civil Protection Agency said the Category 2 hurricane felled trees and power lines as it passed just west of the Portuguese island chain.
Hurricanes the size of Lorenzo are rare so far north and east in the Atlantic basin. Lorenzo is producing huge swells across the North Atlantic as it moves north east towards the UK and Ireland and weakens to a Category 1 hurricane.
The US National Hurricane Centre in Miami said swells generated by Lorenzo were being felt along the eastern coasts of the US and Canada, in the Bahamas, and in parts of western Europe.
The swells are bringing life-threatening surf and rip currents, it warned.
The centre said Lorenzo is “likely be a fairly vigorous cyclone” when it reaches Ireland late on Thursday.
The UK Met Office forecast “very strong winds and heavy rain” for western areas on Thursday and Friday.
The Portuguese weather agency said the most affected islands in the Azores archipelago were Flores and Corvo, where weather stations reported gusts of up to 101mph — lower than forecast as Lorenzo lost some power over cooler water.
Portuguese prime minister Antonio Costa said he had spoken to Azores officials at daybreak and the hurricane risk had peaked without major incident.
“Fortunately, everything indicates that things have not turned out as badly as we feared,” he told reporters in Lisbon.
Azores Civil Protection Agency chief Carlos Neves said 39 people were safely evacuated and no injuries were reported, but the main port on the island of Flores had suffered “grave damage” as part of the dock, the port’s building and some cargo containers had been “swallowed” by the sea.
Emergency crews were removing fallen trees from roads and restoring downed power lines, Mr Neves said.
Around 250,000 people live on the Azores’ nine volcanic islands and the archipelago is a popular tourist destination, famed for its lakes, mountains and volcanic craters.
Authorities placed seven islands on red alert as Lorenzo approached. School classes were cancelled and government offices were closed as people were told to remain indoors on Wednesday.
Azores airline SATA cancelled all flights to the archipelago, and some islands closed their ports.