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Hurricane Maria leaves Puerto Rico without power and has devastated Dominica

By http://www.telegraph.co.uk & AccuWeather last modified Sep 20, 2017 08:27 PM
Hurricane Maria is pummelling Puerto Rico, bringing "catastrophic" 155mph winds and knocking out power to the island's entire population of 3.4 million.

Published: 2017-09-20 00:00:00
Topics: Weather
Countries: Anguilla , Bahamas , British Virgin Islands , Dominica , Dominican Republic , Montserrat , Puerto Rico , Turks & Caicos , US Virgin Islands

The "monster" storm is the strongest to hit the US territory in nearly a century, with warnings that heavy rain could cause landslides and storm surges of up to 9ft that risk swamping low-lying areas. Maria is the first Category 4 hurricane to make landfall in Puerto Rico since the San Ciprian hurricane in 1932.

Maria began lashing the US Virgin Island of St Croix early on Wednesday, as it continued to cut a deadly north-westerly path through the Caribbean.

It made landfall in Puerto Rico at 11.15am BST in the southeast coastal town of Yabucoa and punished the island with life-threatening winds that have torn off roofs and sent doors flying from hinges.

"This is going to be an extremely violent phenomenon," Governor Ricardo Rossello said. "We have not experienced an event of this magnitude in our modern history."

The second maximum-strength storm to sweep through the Atlantic this month has already killed at least eight people - one person on Guadeloupe and seven people on the island of Dominica, where 90 per cent of buildings are reportedly destroyed. Details of damage are limited due to communications being down.

Dominica took a direct hit from Maria on Monday night shortly after it strengthened into a Category 5 hurricane. This is the first recorded Category 5 hurricane to make landfall in Dominica. Tropical Storm Erika devastated the island just two years ago, killing at least 31 people.

Prime minister Roosevelt Skerrit of Dominica was rescued from his flooded home while saying the island had "lost all that money can buy." He added, "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." While the extreme winds of hurricanes often grab headlines, it's often the torrential rain inundating steep hillsides that causes the worst damage.

Maria had maximum sustained winds of 90mph as its outer eyewall began to lash the US Virgin Island of St Croix at 6am BST on Wednesday before moving west.

Describing the storm as "potentially catastrophic", the US National Hurricane Centre said: "Some fluctuations in intensity are likely during the next day or two, but Maria is forecast to remain an extremely dangerous category four or five hurricane until it moves near or over the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico."

The storm is following a similar path to Irma, one of the most powerful in decades, and relief workers raced to secure loose debris that have the potential to make Maria more hazardous if picked up by high winds.

A hurricane warning was also in place for Montserrat, with a hurricane watch applied to Anguilla and the Turks and Caicos islands.

After crossing Puerto Rico, Maria is due to pass just north of the northeast coast of the Dominican Republic on Wednesday night and Thursday.

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