Noel strengthened into a hurricane over the Atlantic on Thursday after slamming the Caribbean with heavy rains, flooding and mudslides that left at least 115 dead. The storm moved away from the Bahamas archipelago, becoming a Category 1 hurricane packing maximum sustained winds near 121 kph, US National Hurricane Center forecasters said. As a tropical storm, Noel drenched the Bahamas and Cuba on Thursday. In the Dominican Republic, rescuers headed out in boats and helicopters to reach dozens of communities stranded by floods and mudslides. Noel is the deadliest storm of the Atlantic region this year. Hurricane Felix, a devastating Category 5 storm, killed 101 people when it lashed the Caribbean and slammed into the Nicaraguan and Honduran coasts in early September.