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Bermuda prepares for Fabian's worst

HAMILTON, Bermuda -- Hurricane Fabian pushed toward Bermuda yesterday, churning waters and sending residents into frenzied preparations for what could be the worst storm to hit the islands in years.

Fabian was picking up speed and is expected to slam into Bermuda by late tonight. Bermuda's government issued a hurricane warning yesterday ahead of the Category 3 storm and closed all government offices.

Forecasters warned islanders of Fabian's lashing 120 mile-per-hour winds and urged residents to protect "life and property." Several cruise ships that were docked in Bermuda left early, and others were taking different routes to avoid the storm. All flights scheduled to arrive in Bermuda today were canceled.

Businesses sent staff home early yesterday and boarded up offices, while islanders withdrew money from banks and formed long queues at gas stations.

"Secure your residences, boats, and any moveable objects that may place you or your family in danger," said Bermuda Premier Alex Scott.

Bermuda is a wealthy island, with hurricane-resistant homes and a sturdy infrastructure. It hasn't seen a Category 3 hurricane since 1963, when Arlene destroyed crops and homes.

The last powerful hurricane to hit the British mid-Atlantic islands was Hurricane Emily, a Category 1 storm that tore off roofs, left homes without power for weeks and caused more than $50 million damage in 1993.

Forecasters said Fabian could knock some buildings off their foundations, damage crops and cause widespread flooding and erosion.

"It's a powerful hurricane and there's no indication it's going to fall apart," said Lixion Avila, a meteorologist at the US National Hurricane Center in Miami.

Forecasters worried the storm could produce powerful tornadoes and winds could exceed 120 miles per hour.

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