Hurricane Irene hammers Bahamas islands
Hurricane Irene destroyed about 100 homes in the Bahamas as it roared over the island chain.
Irene, a category three storm, hit with winds of 185km/h (115mph).
Officials said some areas of the remote Acklins and Crooked Islands were badly damaged, although the capital, Nassau, was largely spared.
Irene also brought flooding and power cuts as it swept over Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and the Turks and Caicos Islands over the past few days.
The Bahamian island of Mayaguana, where roughly 250 people live, about 40 homes were damaged, AP reported.
There were also reports of extensive damage on Cat Island, Long Island and Eleuthera.
Lovely Bay on Acklins Island in the southern Bahamas was badly hit, said the National Emergency Management Agency (Nema).
On its website, The Tribune newspaper said homes had "been completely washed away or have lost entire roofs, power lines have been downed and trees are blocking roads".
Crooked Island saw wind gusts of more than 160km/h, with a school's roof "completely blown off and its windows blow out", Nema reported.
Across the Bahamas, Irene toppled trees and brought some flooding.
But the storm's course shifted, sparing New Providence island, which is home to some 200,000 people.
For the last three or four major hurricanes that I can recall, we've managed to skirt the eye of the hurricane," Charlton Knowles, who runs a pizza restaurant in Nassau, told AP.
"If the only things we are having are downed trees and pickets fences, then it's just a severe storm and that's all."
Irene was heading towards the US, with its projected path well offshore of the east coast of central and northern Florida later on Thursday and early Friday, according to the NHC.
The hurricane is forecast to approach the coast of North Carolina, where US President Barack Obama has declared a state of emergency, on Saturday.