Hurricane Maria leaves ‘devastation,’ rolls toward Puerto Rico

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Hurricane Maria, making its first landfall as a Category 5 storm, has blasted Dominica with “widespread devastation,” according to the prime minister of the Caribbean island nation.

With the US territory of Puerto Rico and the US and British Virgin Islands now in its path, Maria’s powerful punch diminished only slightly after it hit Dominica Monday night, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC).

In its 5 a.m. Tuesday update, the NHC said Maria was a Category 4 hurricane with sustained winds near 155 mph. It was moving west-northwest at 9 mph, with that track expected to continue through Wednesday.

“On the forecast track, the eye of Maria will move over the northeastern Caribbean Sea today, and approach the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico tonight and Wednesday,” the NHC said, adding that it would be “an extremely dangerous category 4 or 5 hurricane” as it bears down on the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

Hurricane-force winds extended up to 30 miles (45 km) outward from the center of the storm, and tropical-storm-force winds extended up to 125 miles (205 km) from the center, the NHC said.

On Dominica, authorities were waiting for daylight to assess the damages from Hurricane Maria to the island nation of more than 73,000 people.

“Initial reports are of widespread devastation,” Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said on Facebook. “So far we have lost all what money can buy and replace. 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.”

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