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NASSAU (Reuters) - Powerful Hurricane Irene battered the Bahamas on Wednesday on a track to the North Carolina coast that forecasters say could threaten the densely populated U.S. Northeast, including New York, starting on Sunday.

Irene, a major Category 3 storm with winds of 120 miles per hour (195 km per hour), pounded the southeast Bahamian islands with winds, rain and dangerous storm surge. Tourists fled the storm and major cruise lines canceled Bahamas stops.

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