Hurricane Maria, the strongest storm to strike Puerto Rico in nearly 90 years, carved a path of destruction through the US territory on Wednesday, causing widespread flooding and knocking power out across the island after killing at least nine people elsewhere in the Caribbean, Reuters reports.
Maria, the second major hurricane to roar through the region this month, was generating sustained winds of up to 155 miles per hour (250 km per hour) when it came ashore near Yabucoa, on the southeastern end of the island of 3.4 million people.
Making landfall as a Category 4 storm on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, the storm ripped roofs from buildings and turned low-lying roadways into rushing debris-laden rivers.
The streets of historic Old Town in the capital, San Juan, were strewn with broken balconies, air-conditioning units, shattered lamp posts, fallen power lines and dead birds. Few trees escaped unscathed. Thick branches were torn down from most and others were simply uprooted.
“The danger continues — there are flood warnings for the whole of Puerto Rico,” Governor Ricardo Rossello warned residents on Twitter as the storm headed offshore. “Stay in safe places.” He later imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew for the island.
News pictures showed whole blocks flooded in areas of the capital, such as the Hato Rey neighborhood. The Miami-based US National Hurricane Center (NHC) reported “catastrophic flash flooding” in portions of the island.
“When we are able to go outside, we are going to find our island destroyed,” Abner Gomez, the director of the island’s emergency management agency, known by its Spanish language acronym AEMEAD, was quoted as saying by El Nuevo Dia newspaper. “It’s a system that has destroyed everything in its path.”
Electricity was believed to be out across the island, said Pedro Cerame, a spokesman for the governor. Authorities had not yet been able to assess the extent of the damage, he said.
Maria was expected to pass near the northeastern coast of the Dominican Republic Wednesday night and Thursday before approaching the Turks and Caicos Islands and southeastern Bahamas on Thursday night and Friday, the NHC said. So far, it looked unlikely to threaten the continental United States.
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