Hurricane Maria whacks Dominica
Hurricane Maria smashed into the eastern Caribbean island of Dominica Tuesday, with its prime minister describing devastating damage as winds and rain from the storm also hit territories still reeling from Irma.
Maria, which has been fluctuating in intensity between a Category Four and Category Five hurricane on its path through the Caribbean, hit Dominica with winds of up to 257 kilometers per hour, the US National Hurricane Center said.
“We have lost all what money can buy and replace,” Dominican Premier Roosevelt Skerrit posted on Facebook, saying there were initial reports of “widespread devastation.”
“My greatest fear for the morning is that we will wake to news of serious physical injury and possible deaths as a result of likely landslides triggered by persistent rains.”
Earlier, he said his roof had been blown off and house flooded, leaving him “at the complete mercy of the hurricane”.
After being rescued, Skerrit appealed for “help of all kinds” but noted specifically that authorities would need helicopters to survey the damage.
Dominica’s airport and ports have been closed.
After moving across the tropical island of 72,000 people, Maria was churning north toward the British Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
The British archipelago, which is still mopping up after Hurricane Irma earlier this month, has been under curfew since Monday, with residents ordered to stay indoors until after the storm, which is expected to hit Wednesday.
“Our islands are extremely vulnerable right now,” the territory’s premier Orlando Smith said in a statement, warning that the storm could turn debris left by Irma into dangerous projectiles.
The NHC warned Maria would “remain extremely dangerous” as it passed over the British and US territories.
The French territory of Guadeloupe — the bridgehead for aid for Irma-hit French territories — found itself in the eye of the storm on Tuesday.
Heavy rain lashed the island and several areas were without power.
“Everything around me is shaking,” a former French minister told BFMTV channel from his home in the south of the 400,000-strong island, which was on maximum-level “violet” alert.
French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said 110 more soldiers would be deployed to the region to reinforce about 3,000 people already there shoring up security, rebuilding infrastructure and distributing aid after Irma.
He warned of “major difficulties” if Guadeloupe was hard hit.
The Dominican Republic, whose east coast was battered by Irma, ordered citizens in part of the north to evacuate ahead of Maria’s arrival.