Category 4 Hurricane Lee 'rapidly strengthening' across Caribbean

A Puerto Rican flag flies in front of the bay after the earthquake in Guayanilla

(Reuters) - Hurricane Lee has intensified to a Category 4 storm and is "rapidly strengthening" as it churns through the Caribbean on Thursday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center reported.

In Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has pre-deployed assets and is coordinating with local officials ahead of the storm, the Biden administration said.

The hurricane was packing winds up to 130 mph (215 kph) by 5 p.m. Atlantic Standard Time (2100 GMT) on Thursday, and additional strengthening was expected at night, the Miami-based hurricane center said.

Swells caused by the storm, which are likely to bring life-threatening surf and rip current conditions, were expected to reach parts of the Lesser Antilles on Friday, the center said, with swells hitting the British and U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, the island of Hispaniola, the Bahamas and Bermuda this weekend.

Lee is expected to remain powerful through the next several days, the NHC added.

(Reporting by Kylie Madry; Additional reporting by Jeff Mason and Aurora Ellis; editing by Jonathan Oatis)