Hurricane Maria’s destructive tear across the Caribbean is well underway, with the storm obliterating parts of Dominica and threatening “catastrophic” damage to Puerto Rico.
“No generation has seen a hurricane like this since San Felipe II in 1928,” Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo RossellÃ³ said Tuesday. “This is an unprecedented atmospheric system.”
He urged Puerto Ricans to find safe shelters immediately, as emergency workers “will not be available to help you once the winds reach 80km/h.”
“We need to keep in mind that we must also protect the lives of these first responders. It’s time to act and look for a safe place if you live in flood-prone areas or in wooden or vulnerable structures,” RossellÃ³ said.
Maria has already has pounded Dominica with 160 mph (257 kph) winds and caused “widespread devastation,” Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said Tuesday.
The Category 5 hurricane shredded the prime minister’s house overnight and left much of the island — population 73,000 — in ruins.
“So far we have lost all what money can buy and replace,” Skerrit posted on Facebook Tuesday. He said his greatest fear was “news of serious physical injury and possible deaths as a result of likely landslides triggered by persistent rains.”
A few hours earlier, the Prime Minister posted, “My roof is gone. I am at the complete mercy of the hurricane. House is flooding.”
Maria is now the strongest hurricane on record to make landfall in Dominica, a former French and British colony whose economy relies heavily on tourism and agriculture.
Now, Maria is taking aim on Puerto Rico and Islands already crippled by Hurricane Irma.