Forecasters believe Hurricane Joaquin will not directly hit the United States

Streets were largely deserted as people remained hunkered down on the island of Eleuthera, which was bracing for heavy winds later Friday.

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Skies begin to darken as Hurricane Joaquin passes through the region, seen from Nassau, Bahamas, early Friday, October 2, 2015.

The U.S. Coast Guard continued searching Saturday for a cargo ship that went missing near the Bahamas with 33 crewmembers aboard, hoping to get closer to the vessel’s last known location after it was caught in Hurricane Joaquin. They said they received notification that the ship had lost propulsion and was listing at 15 degrees near Crooked Island in the eastern Bahamas.

El Faro was traveling from Jacksonville, Florida to San Juan, Puerto Rico as Joaquin churned over the Atlantic Ocean.

TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico said in a statement that it authorized the sailing “knowing that the crew are more than equipped to handle situations such as changing weather”.

The storm was expected to turn north later Friday as it moves away from the Bahamas overnight, with a few weakening expected on Saturday.

According to the AP, the 790-foot El Faro would have been sailing through 20- to 30-foot waves. But it regained Category 4 status on Saturday, with hurricane force winds extending up to 70 miles (110 km) from its center. They resumed their efforts at first light.

The storm’s “extremely risky conditions” are expected to continue over portions of the Bahamas on Friday, according to the National Hurricane Center.

The U.S. Coast Guard had alread rescued in recent hours 12 sailors of a Bolivian-flagged freighter that was sunk by the hurricane northwest of Haiti.

But all communications was shut off at 7:20 a.m. ET Thursday.

The vessel, which is carrying 685 cargo containers, is equipped with an EPIRB device for transmitting distress signals.

The Coast Guard says the crew had reported the ship previously took on water, but that was contained.

Captain Stephen Russell, director of the Bahamas National Emergency Management Agency, said earlier there were no reports of deaths or injuries in the Bahamas from Joaquin.

Officials asked Bahamians to stay on alert as the slow-moving storm roared through the island chain, where schools, businesses and government offices were closed.

The most destructive weather pattern so far this year was Tropical Storm Erika, which killed around 30 people and caused extensive damage in August on the small Caribbean island of Dominica.

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Late Friday afternoon, the U.S. National Hurricane Center downgraded Joaquin, the third hurricane of the 2015 Atlantic season, to a Category 3 hurricane on a scale of 1 to 5, down from its previous Category 4 ranking. “It’s really a mess and we are going to have significantly more problems with multiple rivers reaching moderate flood (level) or higher”. The storm is expected to lose strength in upcoming days, but a tropical storm warning and a hurricane watch were issued for Bermuda.

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