Extent of damage to island still unknown after second hurricane strikes
RESCUERS fanned out across Puerto Rico yesterday to reach stunned victims of Hurricane Maria, which knocked out electricity to the entire island and triggered landslides and floods.
The extent of the damage is unknown given that dozens of municipalities remained isolated and without communication after Maria hit the island on Wednesday morning as a category-four storm with 155mph winds, the strongest hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in over 80 years.
Uprooted trees and widespread flooding have blocked many motorways and streets across the island, where people have been ordered to respect a 6pm to 6am curfew imposed by Governor Ricardo Rossello.
Mr Rossello said that one death had been reported so far on the island, a man struck by flying debris.
“This is going to be a historic event for Puerto Rico. When we are able to go outside, we are going to find our island destroyed,” said emergency management director Abner Gomez.
US President Donald Trump approved a federal disaster declaration for the island.
Hurricane Irma sideswiped Puerto Rico on September 6, leaving more than a million people without power but causing no deaths or widespread damage similar to that of nearby islands.
Maria, however, blew out windows at hospitals and police stations, turned streets into roaring rivers and destroyed hundreds of homes.
It has caused at least 10 deaths across the Caribbean, including seven in the hard-hit former British colony of Dominica and two in the French Caribbean territory of Guadeloupe.
Hartley Henry, an adviser to Dominican Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, said: “The country is in a daze — no electricity, no running water — as a result of uprooted pipes in most communities and definitely no landline or mobile phone services on the island. And that will be for quite a while.”
Images from the capital Roseau show some streets knee-deep in debris.
Aid agencies have been preparing to go to Dominica to provide relief.
Puerto Rico’s electricity grid was already crumbling amid lack of maintenance and a dwindling staff even before the hurricanes knocked out power. Many now believe it will take weeks, if not months, to restore power.