Hurricane Maria has knocked out power across the island of Puerto Rico, home to 3.5m people, officials have said. Flash flood warnings cover the entire island, which continues to be lashed by heavy rain in the storm’s wake. The authorities have warned people to move to higher ground amid “catastrophic” flooding, and with up to 30 inches (76cm) more rain predicted by Saturday. After Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico – the biggest storm to make landfall on the island in almost a century – the governor of San Juan has ordered people to stay indoors between 18:00 and 06:00. In part it is to protect people from accidents with so many electrical cables down and debris in the streets. Furthermore there are thousands of properties empty across the island after people sought refuge with family and friends or in emergency shelters.
Hurricane Maria continued to lash Puerto Rico with torrential rain early Thursday morning as the storm gained strength and moved toward the Dominican Republic. “Once we’re able to go outside, we’re going to find our island destroyed,” warned Abner Gomez, Puerto Rico’s emergency management director. “The information we have received is not encouraging. It’s a system that has destroyed everything in its path.” As people waited in shelters or took cover inside stairwells, bathrooms and closets, Maria brought down cell towers and power lines, snapped trees, tore off roofs and unloaded at least 20 inches of rain.
Category 4 Hurricane Maria takes aim at Puerto Rico. Watch this video below.
Puerto Rico is struggling to restructure a portion of its $73 billion debt, and the government has warned it is running out of money as it fights back against furloughs and other austerity measures imposed by a federal board overseeing the island’s finances. Gov. Ricardo Rossello urged people to have faith: “We are stronger than any hurricane. Together, we will rebuild.” He later asked President Donald Trump to declare the island a disaster zone, a step that would open the way to federal aid. Many people feared extended power outages would further sink businesses struggling amid a recession that has lasted more than a decade.
Hurricane Maria tears through Puerto Rico. Watch this video below.
Here is more from twitter on this story.
— CNN (@CNN) September 21, 2017
— The Weather Network (@weathernetwork) September 21, 2017
— CNN International (@cnni) September 21, 2017
Just before midnight, Pres Trump issued disaster declaration for the US Virgin Islands for Hurricane Maria. Issued one 9/10 for Irma.
— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) September 21, 2017
— The New York Times (@nytimes) September 21, 2017
Devastation in Dominica by Hurricane Maria. pic.twitter.com/0feHsCXXwq
— CNC3TV (@CNC3TV) September 20, 2017
The mayor of Fajardo told one outlet: “I have never seen my city so destroyed.” Scattered reports today told of major damage and little or no communications. Puerto Rico had already suffered an estimated $1 billion in damage from Irma, after a decade-long struggle to recover from recession. Now, housing in the territory is a growing concern, with more than 11,000 people in shelters.