Forecasts expect Hurricane Maria to hit Puerto Rico on Tuesday night and Wednesday.
On Monday, Hector Pesquera, Puerto Rico’s public safety commissioner, told residents in homes not built to withstand such intense winds to move to shelters:
You have to evacuate. Otherwise you’re going to die. I don’t know how to make this any clearer.
Rationing has been introduced in the US territory – still recovering from Hurricane Irma – with water, milk, formula milk, canned food, batteries and flashlights all in short supply.
Radio station Wice QFM, based in Domica’s capital, Roseau, still appears to be broadcasting. There is a live link here.
One caller to the station has been describing “killer winds”.
The host says there has been “constant, constant … pounding rain”.
Dominica’s DBS radio station had been broadcasting news as the hurricane swirled across the island, reporting damage to the roof of the Princess Margaret hospital in the capital, Roseau.
Shortly after reporting that something had crashed into the station building, DBS has now gone quiet.
The eye of the hurricane crosses the centre of Dominica – with more strong winds and rainfall to come as the eastern eyewall makes its way across the island:
Guadeloupe residents ordered to take shelter
While Dominica takes the full force of Hurricane Maria, other islands have already been raked by its outer winds and rains, with yet others still preparing for its arrival, Agence France-Presse reports:
Guadeloupe – the bridgehead for aid for Irma-hit French territories – ordered all residents to take shelter in a maximum-level “violet alert” effective from 8pm local time as powerful rains drenched the French Caribbean island.
St Kitts and Nevis, the British island of Montserrat, and the islands of Culebra and Vieques were also on alert.
On Martinique, which is also part of France, energy supplier EDF said power had been cut off from 16,000 homes, although a hurricane warning on that island was later downgraded to a tropical storm.
In rain-lashed St Lucia, which also faced a tropical storm warning, flooding, mudslides and power outages were reported in parts of the island.
Two years ago, in August 2015, Tropical Storm Erika hit Dominica, killing 31 people and destroying more than 370 homes. Many towns were cut off as roads were blocked and power was lost in what was at that point the most devastating storm to lash Dominica since Hurricane David in 1979.
Erika had wind speeds of a maximum 50mph (85kmh) – much less than Maria’s 160mph (260kmh).
In 2015, prime minister Roosevelt Skerrit said damage from Erika could set the island’s development back two decades.
Jackson says disaster plans are also being put into place for St Kitts and Nevis “as a precaution”.
Ronald Jackson, director of the Caribbean disaster and emergency management agency, says:
CARICOM [Caribbean Community] Disaster Relief United being readied for deployment to Dominica at earliest opportunity.
Rapid needs and damage assessment teams [are] being readied for deployment to Dominica
I fear this is going to be a long September. One to be remembered.
In Guadeloupe – which could be the next island to feel Maria’s full force – winds have already picked up speed and the rains are intensifying:
As Maria approached, Agence France-Presse reported on the islanders making preparations for the catastrophic storm:
Residents flocked to supermarkets to stock up on essentials as island officials warned people living in low-lying areas or along rivers to move to high ground.
“Just ready to ride out storm at best. With a little prayer on the side,” said school teacher Leandra Lander.
Lander collected water, charged her electronic devices and ensured her important documents were safe. “My work place is secured and so is my home,” she said.
The island’s airport and ports have been closed, and the local water company shut down its systems to protect its intake valves from debris churned up by the storm.
The government opened all the island’s shelters.
Dominican prime minister Roosevelt Skerrit warned residents to be especially cautious.
“Let us take it seriously and use the time that we have to prepare ourselves adequately,” he told a news conference.
Many islanders still remember the massive destruction and death caused by David, another category five hurricane that struck in 1979.
Business owners could be seen boarding up their properties earlier in the day, as they prepared to ride out this storm.
The Trinidad and Tobago weather centre, citing local radio, says the roofs of many buildings “have already been torn off and severe damage has occurred” across Dominica.
The tiny outline overlapped by the eye of Hurricane Maria is Dominica – it has now been swallowed up by the storm’s eyewall, with winds of 160mph (260kph) as it lashes the island.
Dominica’s prime minister now says he has been rescued – from his roofless home:
Roosevelt Skerrit, the prime minister of Dominica, has posted on his official Facebook page that his “roof is gone” and he is “at the complete mercy of the hurricane”:
Around 70,000 people live in Dominica, the first island struck by Hurricane Maria.
Chamberlain Emanuel, head of the environment commission at the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, warned before landfall:
It’s really a desperate situation.
We’re trying to be resilient but the vulnerability is just too high.
The US National Hurricane Center forecast predicts that Maria will head west-north-west from Dominica, with islands in its path – Guadeloupe, Montserrat and St Kitts & Nevis most immediately – bracing for winds of up to 160mph (260kph):
On the forecast track, the core of Maria will move near Dominica and the adjacent Leeward Islands during the next few hours [Tuesday evening], over the extreme northeastern Caribbean Sea the remainder of tonight and Tuesday, and approach Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands Tuesday night and Wednesday.
Even before Hurricane Maria arrived in full force on Dominica – at around 9pm Monday local time (01.00 Tuesday GMT) – tropical storm-force winds were felling trees and damaging buildings across the island:
The following islands – some of them still in the early stages of recovery from Hurricane Irma – are currently on hurricane warnings:
- St Kitts and Nevis
- US Virgin Islands
- British Virgin Islands
- Puerto Rico, Culebra and Vieques
The latest update from the US National Hurricane Center warned that Maria has become a “potentially catastrophic category five hurricane … The eye and intense inner core is nearing Dominica”.
The eyewall has now barrelled into Dominica’s eastern coast, crossing towards the island’s capital, Roseau, on the south-west side.
Hurricane Maria makes landfall
Hurricane Maria – which over the course of barely 50 hours has intensified from a tropical storm to a category five hurricane – has hit Dominica, in the eastern Caribbean.
The island was spared the wrath of Hurricane Irma, but now faces devastation as it is raked by winds of 160mph (260kph).
Maria is expected to cross Dominica and adjacent islands over the next few hours, before heading towards Puerto Rico and the British and US Virgin Islands.
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