Hurricane Maria smashes Dominica, now menaces Puerto Rico
Hurricane Maria smashed into Dominica with 160 miles per hour winds, ripping the roof off even the prime minister’s residence and causing what he called “mindboggling” devastation Tuesday as it plunged into a Caribbean region already ravaged by Hurricane Irma.
The storm was on a track to wallop Puerto Rico today “with a force and violence that we haven’t seen for several generations,” the territory’s governor said.
Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said on his Facebook page that, “initial reports are of widespread devastation” and said he feared there would be deaths due to rain-fed landslides.
“So far the winds have swept away the roofs of almost every person I have spoken to or otherwise made contact with,” Skerrit wrote. “The roof to my own official residence was among the first to go.”
And he appealed for international aid: “We will need help, my friend, we will need help of all kinds.”
Maria’s eye roared over the
island late Monday night. The storm briefly dipped to Category 4 strength early Tuesday before regaining Category 5 status.
Fierce winds and rain lashed mountainous Dominica for hours. A police official on the island, Insp. Pellam Jno Baptiste, said late Monday night that there were no immediate reports of casualties but it was too dangerous for officers
to check conditions.
“Where we are, we can’t move,” he said in a brief phone interview while hunkered down against the region’s second Category 5 hurricane this month.
“The winds are merciless! We shall survive by the grace of God,” Skerrit wrote at the start of a series of increasingly harrowing posts on Facebook.
A few minutes later, he messaged he could hear the sound of galvanized steel roofs tearing off houses on the small rugged island.
He then wrote that he thought his home had been damaged, and added: “Rough! Rough! Rough!”
On the nearby island of Martinique, officials said about 25,000 households were without electricity and two small towns without water after Maria roared past.
The head of French civil security, Jacques Witkowski, told reporters that it was too soon to say whether the French department of Guadaloupe had fared as well.
Prefect Eric Maire, the highest French official of Guadaloupe, said in a video on Twitter that some roads and homes were flooded and heavy rain expected to continue. He told the population to “remain inside.”
Authorities in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, which faced the possibility of a direct hit, warned that people in wooden or flimsy homes should find safe shelter before the storm’s expected arrival there on Wednesday.
“You have to evacuate. Otherwise, you’re going to die,” said Hector Pesquera, the island’s public safety commissioner. “I don’t know how to make this any clearer.”
Dutch Marines help out the local population in preparation for the arrival Hurricane Maria in Oranjestad, Statia, on the Leeward Islands.