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Hurricane Maria floods Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico

Hurricane Maria floods Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico
From Reuters - September 21, 2017

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (Reuters) - Deadly Hurricane Maria flooded parts of the Dominican Republic as it grazed past on Thursday and dumped more heavy rain on the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico after destroying buildings and knocking out power to the entire island.

The second major hurricane to rage through the Caribbean this month, Maria has killed at least 17 people and devastated several small islands, including St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Dominica.

Maria was carrying sustained winds of up to 120 miles per hour (195 km per hour) as it moved northwest away from the Dominican Republic on a track that would take it near the Turks and Caicos Islands and the southeastern Bahamas on Thursday night and Friday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said in a 2 p.m. ET (1800 GMT) advisory.

The hurricane had been ranked a Category 4 storm, near the top of the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, with winds of up to 155 mph (250 kph), when it plowed into Puerto Rico on Wednesday as the strongest storm to hit the island in nearly 90 years.

Officials in Puerto Rico, home to 3.4 million people, were still assessing the extent of the damage. U.S. President Donald Trump told reporters the storm totally obliterated the island.

Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello said there was one death reported so far, a man struck by a piece of lumber hurled by high winds.

Its nothing short of a major disaster, he said in a CNN interview, adding it might take months for the islands electricity to be completely restored. He imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew that runs through Saturday.

The storm hit at a time of financial troubles in Puerto Rico, which is facing the largest municipal debt crisis in U.S. history. The team of judges overseeing the Puerto Rican governments bankruptcy has advised involved parties to put legal proceedings on hold indefinitely as the island recovers from the damage, a source familiar with the legal proceedings said on Thursday.

In the historic heart of the islands capital San Juan, which has a fort and buildings from the Spanish colonial era, the storm left a litter of debris.

Aiden Short, 28, a debris management worker from London, said he had headed to the British Virgin Islands to help clean up the devastation of Hurricane Irma when Maria trapped him in San Juan.

I was supposed to have come as a professional, but now Ive just had to weather the storm, Short said. But now it looks like I might be useful here.

FLOOD WARNINGS

All of Puerto Rico was under a flash flood warning early on Thursday as the tail end of the storm could bring another 4 to 8 inches (10-20 cm) of rain on Thursday, bringing the storms total to 35 inches (89 cm) in parts of the island, the NHC said.

The government did not yet have an estimate of how many homes and businesses were destroyed by the storm. But authorities expected to see more people go to shelters on Thursday as they realized how badly their homes were hit, said Pedro Cerame, a spokesman for Rossello.

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