Hurricane Maria: Category 4 storm makes landfall on Puerto Rico after devastation in Caribbean

Sustained wind speed is now 155mph, with potential for 'catastrophic' damage

Jon Sharman
Wednesday 20 September 2017 12:48 BST
Satellite imagery shows Hurricane Maria gaining strength

Hurricane Maria has made landfall on Puerto Rico.

The US National Hurricane Centre (NHC) said the eye of the Category 4 storm came ashore over the Yabucoa area.

The hurricane was about 35 miles southeast of San Juan, Puerto Rico with maximum sustained winds of 155mph, the NHC said, adding that it was moving in a north-westerly direction at 10 mph.

Maria’s eye will “cross Puerto Rico today, and pass just north of the northeast coast of the Dominican Republic tonight and Thursday,” the NHC said.

The governor of Puerto Rico, a US territory, warned on Tuesday the island faced “catastrophic” damage.

Residents in some areas were warned to evacuate or face death from flooding and other hazards.

Many heeded the warnings, leaving the normally crowded streets and beaches of San Juan, Puerto Rico’s capital, empty by Tuesday afternoon, as families raced to move out of the area in search of safe shelter.

Officials said some 4,400 people had arrived at shelters across the island, with 105 pets, by late on Tuesday.

US President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency for the island and tweeted: “Puerto Rico being hit hard by new monster Hurricane. Be careful, our hearts are with you – will be there to help!”

Puerto Rico was facing potential storm surges of 6ft to 9ft above ground level, forecasters said.

Maria killed one person on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe when a tree fell on them on Tuesday, and two people aboard a boat were reported missing off La Desirade island, just east of Guadeloupe, officials said.

About 40 percent of the island — 80,000 homes — were without power and flooding was reported in several communities.

The storm also blew over the tiny eastern Caribbean island of Dominica late on Monday, where Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit sent out a series of dramatic posts on his Facebook page, including that his own roof had blown away.

“The winds are merciless! We shall survive by the grace of God,” Mr Skerrit wrote before communications went down.

Additional reporting by agencies

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