Tropical Storm Chantal weakens on way to Dominican Republic

MIAMI, July 10 Wed Jul 10, 2013 8:26am EDT

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MIAMI, July 10 (Reuters) - Tropical Storm Chantal weakened considerably as it took aim at the Dominican Republic on Wednesday and the cyclone appeared to be falling apart, U.S. forecasters said.

The Miami-based National Hurricane Center said Chantal was packing winds of about 45 miles per hour (75 km per hour) early on Wednesday and still threatened to hit the Dominican Republic and neighboring Haiti with heavy rain and stiff winds.

But wind shear was causing it to degenerate and the center of the storm was difficult to track, the Hurricane Center said.

At 8 a.m. EDT (1200 GMT), Chantal was located about 155 miles (245 km) south-southwest of the Dominican capital Santo Domingo and moving west at 29 mph (46 kph).

Chantal, the third named storm of the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season, never posed an immediate threat to U.S. oil and gas operations in the Gulf of Mexico.

Forecasters said it still had the potential to do some damage in Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas and one that is highly vulnerable to flash floods and mudslides because of its near-total deforestation.

In the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, thousands of people live in fragile tents and tarpaulin camps more than three years after the country's devastating earthquake.

Tropical storm warnings were still in effect early on Wednesday for the Dominican Republic and Haiti and also for Turks and Caicos and the southeastern Bahamas. (Reporting by Tom Brown; Editing by Vicki Allen)

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