Hurricane Maria ‘devastates’ Dominica: PM


[BBC] – Dominica has suffered “widespread damage” from Hurricane Maria, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit says.

“We have lost all that money can buy,” he said in a Facebook post.

The hurricane suddenly strengthened to a “potentially catastrophic” category five storm, before making landfall on the Caribbean island.

Earlier Mr Skerrit had posted live updates as his own roof was torn off, saying he was “at the complete mercy of the hurricane”.

“My greatest fear for the morning is that we will wake to news of serious physical injury and possible deaths as a result of likely landslides triggered by persistent rains,” he wrote after being rescued.

Maria is moving roughly along the same track as Irma, the hurricane that devastated the region earlier this month.

It has maximum sustained winds of 250km/h (155mph), and was downgraded to a category four after hitting Dominica, before picking up full strength again.

Life-threatening mudslides, flash floods and storm surges have been predicted by the US National Hurricane Center, which monitors the region.

Dominica, a former British colony with a population of 72,000, is less than 50km long and 25km wide, and the eye of the storm passed directly over it.

It made landfall at 21:00 local time (01:00 GMT Tuesday), and Dominica’s PM has called the damage “devastating” and “mind boggling”.

“My focus now is in rescuing the trapped and securing medical assistance for the injured,” he said, and called on the international community for help. “We will need help, my friend, we will need help of all kinds.”

Curtis Matthew, a journalist based in the capital, Roseau, told the BBC that conditions went “very bad, rapidly”.

“We still don’t know what the impact is going to be when this is all over. But what I can say it does not look good for Dominica as we speak,” he said.

All ports and airports are closed and residents near the coast have been ordered to go to authorised shelters.

Maria jumped from a category three to a brutal category five within just a few hours, which was an unexpected shock for people in Dominica.

A factor in its rapid development is that local sea surface temperatures are currently anomalously high by a margin of around one to two degrees, says BBC weather forecaster Steve Cleaton.

The elevated sea surface temperature will have contributed to the rapid development of this system, in concert with other very favourable atmospheric conditions within the locale such as low wind shear, our meteorologist adds.

Where next?

Maria is currently heading towards the French island of Guadeloupe, where authorities have told residents to seek shelter and not go out under any circumstances.

Montserrat, a British Overseas Territory just to its north, is likely to be affected after that.

Both islands have been issued with hurricane warnings, along with St Kitts and Nevis, the US Virgin Islands, the British Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

Tropical storm warnings have been issued for Antigua, as well as Barbuda, St Martin and Anguilla, which are still reeling after Irma.

Where has it passed?

As the hurricane struck in the middle of the night it has been difficult to assess the extent of the damage so far.

In French territory Martinique, energy supplier EDF said power was cut off from 16,000 homes, according to AFP.

The news agency said there were also reports of flooding, mudslides and power outages in parts of St Lucia.

Both places had their hurricane warnings downgraded to tropical storm watch.

However, in this part of the world, the danger does not always pass when the hurricane moves on. Heavy rains mean mudslides can still be a risk.

Will Irma relief work be affected?

Some islands in Maria’s path escaped the worst of Hurricane Irma and have been used as bases to distribute relief to places that were not so fortunate.

Now there are concerns that that this work could be jeopardised if they are badly hit too.Guadeloupe has been a bridgehead for aid for Irma-hit French territories, while Puerto Rico – which is expected to be hit later on Tuesday – has also been offering crucial assistance to its neighbours.

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