‘Maria’ regains strength

The Associated Press

ROSEAU, Dominica–Hurricane Maria smashed into Dominica with 160 m.p.h. winds, ripping the roof off even the prime minister’s residence and causing what he called “mind-boggling” devastation today as it plunged into a Caribbean region already ravaged by Hurricane Irma.
The storm was on a track to wallop Puerto Rico tomorrow “with a force and violence that we haven’t seen for several generations,” the territory’s governor said.
Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said on his Facebook page that “initial reports are of widespread devastation,” and added he feared there would be deaths due to rain-fed landslides.
“So far the winds have swept away the roofs of almost every person I have spoken to or otherwise made contact with,” Skerrit wrote.
“The roof to my own official residence was among the first to go.”
Maria’s eye roared over the island late last night.
The storm briefly dipped to Category 4 strength early today before regaining Category 5 status.
Fierce winds and rain lashed mountainous Dominica for hours.
A police official on the island, Insp. Pellam Jno Baptiste, said late last night that there were no immediate reports of casualties but it was too dangerous for officers to check conditions.
“Where we are, we can’t move,” he said in a brief phone interview while hunkered down against the region’s second Category 5 hurricane this month.
On the nearby island of Martinique, officials said about 25,000 households were without electricity and two small towns without water after Maria roared past.
Authorities in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, which faced the possibility of a direct hit, warned that people in wooden or flimsy homes should find safe shelter before the storm’s expected arrival there tomorrow.
“You have to evacuate. Otherwise, you’re going to die,” said Hector Pesquera, the island’s public safety commissioner.
“I don’t know how to make this any clearer.”
Forecasters warned Maria would remain a Category 4 or 5 storm until it moves over the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
They added storm surge could raise water levels by six-nine feet (1.8-2.7 metres) near the storm’s centre.
The storm was predicted to bring 10-15 inches (25-38 cm) of rain across the islands, with more in isolated areas.