Hurricane Maria: Puerto Rico in total blackout

The third Caribbean storm to strike in three weeks, Hurricane Maria has left Puerto Rico in complete darkness and is now on its way to Dominican Republic

21 September 2017, 9:46am
Rescue workers aiding people after Hurricane Maria struck (Photo: ABC News)
Rescue workers aiding people after Hurricane Maria struck (Photo: ABC News)
According to officials, Puerto Rico is without power after hurricane Maria’s full-force winds and flooding knocked the US territory’s power service.

Residents residents endured a day of harsh winds and life-threatening flooding on Wednesday from the category 4 storm; the third hurricane to strike the Caribbean in as many weeks.

Maria, which has been since been downgraded to a category 3 storm, with winds of 115 mph, is currently around 55 miles north of the Dominican Republic.

Before Puerto Rico, Maria struck the islands of Dominica,  Guadeloupe and the US territory of St Croix.

“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.”

The storm made landfall early on Wednesday morning with winds of 155mph and residents said roofs were torn off buildings and doors flew off their hinges.

Governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rossello, ordered a curfew every night until this coming Saturday, from 6pm until 6am, saying it was essential to maintain order.

“Remain in safe places,” Rosello said. Emergency personnel, health workers and reporters are exempt.

San Juan, the capital, was hit by widespread flooding and a flash-flood warning was declared in central Puerto Rico, where river levels are at a record high.

Mayor of the northern coastal city of Catano, Felix Delgado, told the Associated Press that 80% of the 454 homes in a neighborhood known as Juana Matos were destroyed. “Months and months and months and months are going to pass before we can recover from this,” he said.

The executive director of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration (PRFAA), Carlos Mercader, said there were 13,000 evacuees in Puerto Rico’s shelters. This includes people who evacuated from other islands during Hurricane Irma.

Hurricane Maria was still category 5 early Wednesday morning when it pummelled St Croix, the largest and southernmost of the US Virgin Islands, and Guadeloupe, where at least one person died and about 40% of homes were without power in the aftermath of the storm.

There were “multiple casualties” on Dominica, the first island struck by Maria, according to the Organisation of the Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), and at least 90% of buildings were damaged. The storm took out all of the island’s communication systems, triggered landslides and blocked roads, OECS said.

Communications with the island were severely disrupted and inhabitants were only able to make contact with the outside world using shortwave radios.

According to Hartley Henry, a chief aid to the prime minister, Roosevelt Skerrit:

 “The country is in a daze – no electricity, no running water – as a result of uprooted pipes in most communities and definitely to landline or cellphone services on island, and that will be for quite a while.”