Hurricane Maria kills one in Guadeloupe, brings 'devastation' to Dominica

By Ed Adamczyk and Danielle Haynes   |   Sept. 19, 2017 at 7:24 AM
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Sept. 19 (UPI) -- Hurricane Maria brought "devastation" to Dominica and caused at least one death in Guadeloupe after passing through the Leeward Islands overnight, local officials said.

The storm strengthened from a Category 3 hurricane to Category 5, with maximum sustained winds of 160 mph, in a matter of hours on Monday prior to making direct landfall on Dominica, which was still dealing with the aftereffects of Hurricane Irma.

All ports and airports were closed, and all residents were ordered to go to shelters.

Dominica, an island 15 miles wide and 30 miles from north to south, has a population of 72,000.

The government's website and email outlets were not functioning on Tuesday morning, but on Monday, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerritt wrote on his Facebook page, "Initial reports are of widespread devastation. So far we have lost all what money can buy and replace."

"So far the winds have swept away the roofs of almost every person I have spoken to or otherwise made contact with. The roof to my own official residence was among the first to go and this apparently triggered an avalanche of torn away roofs in the city and the countryside. It is too early to speak of the condition of the air and seaports, but I suspect both will be inoperable for a few days."

Skeritt called for immediate help in the form of rescue helicopters.

Maria also impacted the French territories of Guadeloupe and Martinique, just north and south of Dominica, respectively.

In Guadeloupe, one person died after a tree fell there, a government Twitter account said. Another two people were missing in a shipwreck.

Communications channels had been disrupted and officials were on hand to clear debris and restore power and phones.

The French government said there was no major damage in Martinique, though about 50,000 homes lost power and 10,000 lost water. Two people sustained minor injuries.

The storm's predicted path calls for Maria to approach the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico by Wednesday.

Ernesto Morales, stationed in San Juan, P.R., with the National Weather Service, said the storm "promises to be catastrophic for our island. All of Puerto Rico will experience hurricane force winds."

Emergencies were declared by President Donald Trump for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Two weeks ago, Caribbean islands were preparing for Hurricane Irma. Delivery of relief supplies was accelerated in advance of Hurricane Maria. An amphibious military ship, the USS Kearsarge, is the base of operations for the relief effort in the Virgin Islands. It evacuated its 160 U.S. military forces sent to assist in the recovery after Irma.

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