PUERTO RICO – The emergency director of Puerto Rico said on Wednesday that hurricane Maria has likely “destroyed” after the enormous storm ripped roofs off buildings and swamped homes.
Strong flooding was described across the economically stressed U.S. territory, mainly in San Juan, the capital, where many residential streets looked like rivers.
Shortly after 12:30 a.m. ET a flash flood warning was issued by the National Weather Service for the whole island.
It was told press secretary of Gov. Ricardo Rosselló’s that all power across the island was knocked out. The entire system is down, the governor said. No one on the island has power from utilities.
Abner Gómez Cortés Emergency Management Director told at a news briefing “Once we are able to go outside, we’re going to find our island destroyed,”. Rosselló imposed a 6 p.m.-to-6 a.m. curfew, citing flood warnings and the importance of keeping streets clear for repair and rescue teams.
San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz told that she had ever seen a devastation like this in the capital.
Yulín said, “The San Juan that we knew yesterday is no longer there. We are looking at 4 to 6 months without electricity” in Puerto Rico, home to nearly 3.5 million people.
Maria had entered Puerto Rico’s southeast side on Wednesday with Category 4 winds of 155 miles per hour. It was near the town of Yabucoa just after 6 a.m. ET, the National Hurricane Center said. Maria is the strongest storm to hit Puerto Rico since 1928.
Maria strengthened to a Category 3 hurricane early Thursday, it added. It was about 55 miles north of Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, by 2 a.m. ET.
“Irma gave us a break, but Maria destroyed us,” Edwin Serrano, a construction worker in Old San Juan, said.
Tropical storm conditions were expected to continue in Puerto Rico through the night. Most predictions suggested that Maria would bend to north and spare the mainland United States.
“The wind threat has decreased,” the hurricane center said, but the threat of rain-gorged floods remains “devastating to catastrophic,” it said. Airports in San Juan, Aguadilla and Ponce were ordered closed until Friday at the earliest because of flooding and debris, authorities said.
Maria blew out windows at some hospitals and police stations, turned some streets into roaring rivers and destroyed hundreds of homes across the island. A storm surge of more than 4 feet was also reported.
Maria was a Category 5 hurricane — the strongest there can be — when it hit the Caribbean on Monday night, killing at least seven people on the island of Dominica and one person on Guadeloupe.
Maria’s next move was predicted to take it near the coasts of the Dominican Republic and the Turks & Caicos islands, which were under hurricane warnings, and then begin drifting more northwestward by Friday.
Forecasters said, “It remains too early to know how close Maria will move to the U.S. mainland”, but Domenica Davis, a meteorologist for The Weather Channel, said, “It looks like it will stay in the open waters of the Atlantic.”
Puerto Rico was already working on digging itself out of a historic financial crisis. Maria could destroy any progress the territory has made under a year – old economic rehab plan and set it back further.