Puerto Rico obliterated by Hurricane Maria, Trump says as 17 people die – UPDATE
Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico on Wednesday as the strongest storm to hit the U.S. territory in nearly 90 years, turning streets into debris-laden rivers, damaging buildings and cutting power, after killing at least nine people in the Caribbean.
UPDATE: The second major hurricane to rage through the Caribbean this month, Maria has killed a total of 17 people and devastated several small islands, including St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Dominica.
Maria was carrying sustained winds of up to 115 miles per hour (185 km per hour) as it moved away from the Dominican Republic on a track that would take it near the Turks and Caicos Islands and the southeastern Bahamas on Thursday night and Friday, the U.S. National Hurricane Canter said in an 11 a.m. ET (1500 GMT) advisory.
UPDATE: President Donald Trump said on Thursday that Hurricane Maria “totally obliterated” the U.S. island territory of Puerto Rico with its electrical grid destroyed.
Trump told reporters during a meeting with Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko that he would visit Puerto Rico at some point. He did not specify a time.
He described Puerto Rico as in “very, very, very perilous shape” and said U.S. emergency authorities were starting to work on helping in the recovery.
UPDATE: Hurricane Maria is continuing to lash the northeastern Dominican Republic and could strengthen in the next day or so, the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said on Thursday.
The category 3 hurricane is about 220 miles (350 km) southeast of Grand Turk Island, packing maximum sustained winds of 115 miles per hour (185 km/h) at present, the NHC said.
Maria is moving in a northwesterly direction at about 9 mph (15 km/h) and is expected to pass near the Turks and Caicos later on Thursday, it added.
UPDATE: Maria was a Category 3 storm with maximum sustained winds of 115 mph (185 kph) about 55 miles (90 kms) north of Punta Cana, on the east coast of the Dominican Republic, at 2 a.m. EDT (0600 GMT), the NHC said.
Punta Cana was hit with wind gusts of 58 mph (93 kph) and Maria was forecast to bring storm surges, when hurricanes push ocean water dangerously over normal levels, of up to 6 feet (1.83 m) in the Dominican Republic, it said.
Maria was expected to pick up strength as it churns toward the Turks and Caicos Islands and the southeastern Bahamas later on Thursday. Storm surges on the islands could be as high as 12 feet (3.66 m), it said.
— Rosaline Cabrera (@rosalinetweets) September 20, 2017
UPDATE: Maria regained major hurricane strength near the eastern Dominican Republic early on Thursday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.
The category 3 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson wind scale was about 55 miles (90 km) north of Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, with maximum sustained winds of 115 miles per hour (185 km/h), the NHC said.
On the forecast track, the core of Maria will continue to move away from Puerto Rico during the next several hours, and then pass offshore of the northeastern coast of the Dominican Republic early on Thursday, the Miami-based weather forecaster said.
UPDATE: Maria killed at least seven people on the island of Dominica, government officials said, and two people in the French territory of Guadeloupe as it barreled through the Caribbean. It also caused widespread damage on St. Croix, one of the U.S. Virgin Islands.
UPDATE: Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico on Wednesday as the strongest storm to hit the U.S. territory in nearly 90 years, ripping windows from their fixtures and sending debris hurtling through the streets as it approached the capital, San Juan.
Maria, the second major hurricane to roar through the Caribbean this month, made landfall near Yabucoa, on the southwest coast of the island of 3.4 million people. Thousands of people were seeking safety in shelters.
— Mike Seidel (@mikeseidel) September 20, 2017
Carrying winds of 145 miles per hour (233 kph) and driving high storm surges, Maria’s eye was located about 15 miles (25 km) southwest of San Juan at 9 a.m. ET (1300 GMT), the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.
Buildings trembled as the storm battered San Juan and sent torn off pieces of metal barricades clattering along streets.
Broken windows, mangled awnings and gutters dangled haphazardly from buildings or were ripped off entirely. Toilets bubbled noisily and belched foul air as the hurricane rumbled through the city’s water and sewage lines.
On its passage through the Caribbean, Maria killed at least one person in the French territory of Guadeloupe and devastated the tiny island nation of Dominica.
UPDATE: Hurricane Maria has made landfall near Yabucoa, Puerto Rico, the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said on Wednesday.
The hurricane is about 35 miles (55 km) southeast of San Juan, Puerto Rico with maximum sustained winds of 155 miles per hour (250 km per hour), the NHC said, adding that it is moving in a north-westerly direction at 10 mph (17 km/h).
UPDATE: According to NHC, Hurricane Maria’s eyewall over Vieques, located about 20 miles (some 35 km) South Southeast of Vieques, Puerto Rico with maximum sustained winds of 160mph (260 km/h).
It killed at least one person in Guadeloupe and devastated the tiny island nation of Dominica. The storm came just days after the region was punched by Hurricane Irma, which ranked as one of the most powerful Atlantic storms on record and left a trail of destruction on several Caribbean islands.
— Pat Harvey (@Patharveynews) September 20, 2017
Maria, a rare Category 5 storm at the top end of the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, was packing maximum sustained winds near 165 mph (270 kph) with higher gusts, the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC).
It was about 20 miles (32 kms) southwest of St. Croix as of 1 a.m. EDT (0500 GMT) on Wednesday morning and its outer eyewall was lashing the island with sustained winds of about 90 mph (145 kph), the NHC said.
Maria was predicted to be the worst storm to hit St. Croix, home to about half of the U.S. Virgin Island’s 103,000 residents, since Hugo, a Category 4 storm, in 1989.
Many U.S. Virgin Islands residents fled to shelters around midday Tuesday. U.S. Virgin Islands Governor Kenneth Mapp warned people on the islands that their lives were at risk.
— Rick Jervis (@MrRJervis) September 19, 2017
“You lose your life the moment you start thinking about how to save a few bucks to stop something from crashing or burning or falling apart,” he said. “The only thing that matters is the safety of your family, and your children, and yourself. The rest of the stuff, forget it.”
Hector Cintron, who works at a telephone company on St. Thomas, said he had spent the past couple of days preparing generators, securing his belongings and clearing debris as he and his neighbors prepared for a repeat of Irma.
“There’s a lot of stress and a lot of anxiety. It’s off the charts,” he said.
Maria will cross Puerto Rico on Wednesday and pass just north of the northeast coast of the Dominican Republic on Wednesday night and Thursday, the NHC said.
It was too early to know if Maria will threaten the continental United States as it moves northward in the Atlantic.
Earlier this month, Irma devastated several small islands, including Barbuda and the U.S. Virgin Islands of St. Thomas and St. John, and caused heavy damage in Cuba and Florida, killing at least 84 people in the Caribbean and the U.S. mainland.
Maria was set to be the strongest hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in nearly 90 years, likely a Category 4 or 5 when it makes landfall, the NHC said. A slow weakening is expected after the hurricane emerges over the Atlantic north of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, it added.
In Puerto Rico, Maria is expected to dump as much as 25 inches (63.5 cm) of rain on parts of the island and bring storm surges, when hurricanes push ocean water dangerously over normal levels, of up to 9 feet (2.74 m), the NHC said.
The heavy rainfall could cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides, it added.
“We have not experienced an event of this magnitude in our modern history,” Ricardo Rossello, governor of Puerto Rico said in a televised message on Tuesday.
“Although it looks like a direct hit with major damage to Puerto Rico is inevitable, I ask for America’s prayers,” he said, adding the government has set up 500 shelters.
Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory of about 3.4 million people, avoided a direct hit from Irma, but the storm knocked out power for 70 percent of the island, and killed at least three people. Maria promises to be worse.
“This is going to be catastrophic for our island,” said Grisele Cruz, who was staying at a shelter in the southeastern city of Guayama. “We’re going to be without services for a long time.”
About 150 flights were canceled at the main international airport in Puerto Rico on Wednesday morning, according to tracking service FlightAware.com.
U.S. airlines said on Tuesday they would cap one-way fares at $99 to $384 to aid evacuations.
The storm plowed into Dominica, a mountainous country of 72,000 people, late on Monday causing what Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit called “mind-boggling” destruction.
“The winds have swept away the roofs of almost every person I have spoken to or otherwise made contact with,” Skerrit said on Facebook, noting that his own residence had been hit, too. He said he was now focused on rescuing people who might be trapped and getting medical help for the injured.
North of Dominica, the French island territory of Guadeloupe appeared to have been hit hard. The Guadeloupe prefecture said one person was killed by a falling tree and at least two people were missing in a shipwreck.
Some roofs had been ripped off, roads were blocked by fallen trees, 80,000 households were without power and there was flooding in some southern coastal areas, the prefecture said in Twitter posts.
Video footage released by the prefecture showed tree-bending winds whipping ferociously through deserted streets and shaking lamp posts when the storm first hit.