Fears for the safety of more than 30 people aboard a cargo ship are growing after they were caught up in a hurricane with winds exceeding 130mph near the Bahamas.
The US Coast Guard said it was conducting a search and rescue operation for the 735-foot cargo ship El Faro with its 33 crew after the ship sent out a distress signal.
The ships, which was en route to San Juan in Puerto Rico from Jacksonville, Florida, is believed to have been caught in Hurricane Joaquin near Crooked Island, Bahamas.
The National Hurricane Centre described Joaquin as "extremely dangerous" and said it was "battering the central Bahamas" although it was expected to weaken over the weekend.
The hurricane was located about 10 miles off Rum Cay in the Bahamas with maximum sustained winds of 130 miles per hour, the Miami-based weather forecaster added with the core of the storm's strongest winds continuing o move over parts of the central and northwestern Bahamas.
"Even though Joaquin is expected to pass well east of the coast of the United States, a prolonged period of elevated water levels and large waves will affect the mid-Atlantic region," the NHC said.