Published: Thu, September 21, 2017
World | By Paul Elliott

Hurricane Maria destroys homes, cuts power across Puerto Rico

Flash flood warnings were also issued for much of the eastern third of Puerto Rico and for St. Croix in the Virgin Islands.

"This is going to be a disaster", Jean Robert Auguste, who owns two French restaurants and sought shelter at a San Juan hotel, told the Associated Press.

The hurricane, which made landfall in Puerto Rico on Wednesday as category 4, is located 90 km east-northeast of Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, and is moving toward the northwest at 19 km/h, according to the United States National Hurricane Centre (NHC). Although the eye should move off the coast later this morning, hurricane-force winds will lash the island for most of the day.

CHANG: Do you have a sense for what has happened outside of your immediate area?

The latest hurricane has produced devastating winds of over 160mph.

HENNESSY-FISKE: That's right. We had people who came from the U.S. Virgin Islands, who lost their homes, who are sheltering here with their pets.

A NASA satellite photo showing Hurricane Maria as it approaches the Leeward Islands in the Atlantic OceanWhat was the damage to Dominica and Puerto Rico?

The storm hit Puerto Rico on Wednesday, crushing concrete balconies and paralysing the island with landslides, flooding and downed trees. The tracking models increasingly agree Maria will curve north out to sea after passing near the northern coast of the Dominican Republic. It was even stronger than Hurricane Irma that storm roared into the Florida Keys earlier this month.

As Maria closed in, Trump offered his support via Twitter: "Puerto Rico being hit hard by new monster Hurricane".

"I think people didn't expect the storm to reach the point that it did", he said. "My administration has done everything within our power to prepare for this event and to protect the lives of everyone in the island", said Rossello.

Edwin Rosario, a 79-year-old retired government worker, said an economic crisis that has sparked an exodus of almost half a million Puerto Ricans to the U.S. mainland will only make the island's recovery harder.

"It is nice we can go out and help people in need". So damages on the island - it's a devastation.

Maria was expected to pick up strength as it churns toward the Turks and Caicos Islands and the southeastern Bahamas later on Thursday.

Maria is expected to pass near the Turks and Caicos sometime Thursday.

"There is still some uncertainty, as any slight jog of the eyewall north could keep the most intense winds off the coast of the Dominican Republic", Dean said.

Mullin said reports from Dominica indicate the main hospital and police station had been damaged, along with the main communications networks.

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