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Maria pummels Dominican Republic

China Daily | Updated: 2017-09-22 08:09

'Storm of century' paralyzing Puerto Rico with flooding and strong winds

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - Hurricane Maria thrashed parts of the Dominican Republic with heavy rain and high winds as it passed off its east coast on Thursday after making a direct hit on Puerto Rico that caused severe flooding and cut power to almost all the island.

Maria has killed at least 10 people as it raged through the Caribbean region, the second major hurricane to do so this month.

It ripped roofs off almost all structures on the island country of Dominica, where seven people were confirmed dead and the number is expected to climb when searches resume at daybreak.

Maria was ranked a Category 4 storm, near the top end of the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, with sustained winds of up to 250 km/h, when it hit Puerto Rico on Wednesday as the strongest storm to hit the US territory in nearly 90 years.

It tore roofs from buildings, snapped power lines and turned roadways into torrents laden with debris as it cut a diagonal swath across the island.

The entire island of 3.4 million people was under a flash flood warning early on Thursday as the storm was forecast to dump 50 to 75 centimeters of rain on much of Puerto Rico through Friday, according to the US National Hurricane Center.

The island's governor, Ricardo Rossello, said the only fatality immediately reported was a man struck by a piece of lumber hurled by high winds.

"It's nothing short of a major disaster," Rossello said in a CNN interview, adding it may take months for the island's electricity to be completely restored. Earlier he imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew for the island.

The streets of Puerto Rico's historic Old Town in the capital, San Juan, were strewed with broken balconies, air conditioning units, shattered lamp posts, fallen power lines and dead birds. Few trees escaped unscathed.

The island's recovery could be complicated by its financial woes as it faces the largest municipal debt crisis in United States history. Both its government and the public utility have filed for bankruptcy protection amid disputes with creditors.

Maria weakened as it went over land in Puerto Rico and picked up strength early on Thursday as it passed over warm Caribbean waters.

It was a Category 3 storm with maximum sustained winds of 185 km/h about 90 kilometers north of Punta Cana, on the east coast of the Dominican Republic, at 2 am, the NHC said.

‘In a daze'

Maria is likely to then move north in the Atlantic Ocean over the weekend but indications are it will not hit the continental US.

It was classified a Category 5 storm when it struck the eastern Caribbean island nation of Dominica on Monday night with devastating force.

Based on an aerial survey, about 95 percent of roofs in Dominica, one of the most undeveloped countries in the Caribbean with a population of about 73,000, were damaged or destroyed by Maria, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said. It added damage to the island could be in the billions of dollars.

Hartley Henry, principal adviser to Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, said in a Facebook post on Wednesday that "the country is in a daze".

Passing on Wednesday just west of St. Croix, home to about 55,000 people, Maria damaged an estimated 65 percent to 70 percent of the island's buildings, said Holland Redfield, who served six terms in the US Virgin Islands senate.

President Donald Trump declared a major disaster in the US Virgin Islands and ordered federal aid to supplement recovery efforts, the White House said on Wednesday.

The US and British Virgin Islands were also hit this month by Hurricane Irma, which ranked as one of the most powerful Atlantic storms on record. It left a trail of destruction in several Caribbean islands and Florida this month, killing at least 84 people.

Reuters - AFP

 Maria pummels Dominican Republic

Trees are toppled in a parking lot at Roberto Clemente Coliseum in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Wednesday, during the passage of the Hurricane Maria. The storm made landfall on the US territory, pummeling the island after killing several people on its passage through the Caribbean.Hector Retamal / Agence Francepresse

(China Daily 09/22/2017 page12)

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