Hurricane Maria makes landfall in Puerto Rico



Hurricane Maria made landfall on Wednesday in southeast Puerto Rico, ripping trees out of the ground and lashing two-thirds of the island with maximum sustained winds of 250 kmph, the US National Hurricane Center said.

The hurricane made landfall near the city of Yabucoa in the east of the US territory. The storm was so fierce that it broke two National Weather Service radars on the island. It became the first hurricane of Category 4 strength or higher in nearly 80 years to hit the US territory, home to 3.3 million people, CNN reported.

In a telephone interview with the "Today Show" after Maria made landfall, Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosello said the hurricane would have a devastating impact on the Caribbean island.

"Conditions have deteriorated rapidly. We have severe and extreme winds and a lot of rain," Rosello said.

Hurricane Maria was expected to cause widespread power outages across Puerto Rico. Shortly after landfall, the storm wiped out power in the east coast city of Fajardo. 

As residents hunkered down in homes and shelters ahead of the direct impact, others in the most vulnerable, low-lying, flood-prone areas were evacuated.

The Puerto Rico Convention Centre in San Juan -- which was still housing Hurricane Irma evacuees from other Caribbean islands -- prepared to accept thousands more residents.

The NHC warned in its latest bulletin about dangerous storm surge, saying the water could reach up to 2.7 metres (nine feet) above ground in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.

It added that the storm surge would raise water levels by up to 4.6 metres above normal tide levels in the hurricane warning area near and to the north of the center of Maria for both the southeastern Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

On Tuesday, the hurricane ploughed through St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands, home to around 55,000 people. On the island of Dominica, which was badly hit on Monday, seven people were reported to have been killed.

The first aerial footage of the Dominica island showed "significant damage", said Ronald Jackson of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency. Dominica had been virtually cut off with telecommunications severed. Local radio operators said more than 90 per cent of properties had been damaged.

The former British colony, which has a population of 72,000 and is less than 50 km long and 25 km wide, escaped the worst of Hurricane Irma two weeks ago.

The storm was also blamed for at least one death on the French island of Guadeloupe.- IANS