Maria drenches Dominican Republic after hammering Puerto Rico

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (Reuters) - Hurricane Maria lashed parts of the Dominican Republic with heavy rain and high winds and headed northwest in the Caribbean on Thursday after making a direct hit on Puerto Rico that caused severe flooding and cut power to the entire island.

Maria has killed at least 10 people as it raged through the Caribbean, the second major hurricane to do so this month.

Maria was carrying sustained winds of up to 115 miles per hour (185 km per hour) as it moved away from the Dominican Republic on a track that would take it near the Turks and Caicos Islands and the southeastern Bahamas on Thursday night and Friday, the U.S. National Hurricane Canter said in an 8 a.m. ET (1200 GMT) advisory.

RELATED: Hurricane Maria in Dominican Republic 

10 PHOTOS
Hurricane Maria lands in the Dominican Republic
See Gallery
Hurricane Maria lands in the Dominican Republic
A man tries to salvage a table belonging to his restaurant before the arrival of Hurricane Maria in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, September 20, 2017. REUTERS/Ricardo Rojas
A man photographs the waves before the arrival of Hurricane Maria in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, September 20, 2017. REUTERS/Ricardo Rojas
Women walk against the wind before the arrival of Hurricane Maria in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, September 20, 2017. REUTERS/Ricardo Rojas
Locals rest inside a shelter before the arrival of the Hurricane Maria in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, September 20, 2017. REUTERS/Ricardo Rojas
A woman with a flashlight illuminates her baby inside a shelter before the arrival of the Hurricane Maria in Punta Cana September 20, 2017. REUTERS/Ricardo Rojas
A man tries to salvage a table belonging to his restaurant before the arrival of Hurricane Maria in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, September 20, 2017. REUTERS/Ricardo Rojas
Men ride motorcyles along a flooded street in Punta Cana, in the Dominican Republic, as Hurricane Maria approaches on September 20, 2017. The government of the Dominican Republic told people to stay home from their public and private sector jobs on Thursday, when the hurricane is expected to hit the island. / AFP PHOTO / Erika SANTELICES (Photo credit should read ERIKA SANTELICES/AFP/Getty Images)
A man rides a motorbike on the street before the arrival of the Hurricane Maria in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, September 20, 2017. REUTERS/Ricardo Rojas
People ride a motorbike on the street before the arrival of Hurricane Maria in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, September 20, 2017. REUTERS/Ricardo Rojas
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Maria was ranked a Category 4 storm, near the top of the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, with winds of up to 155 mph (250 kph), when it made landfall on Puerto Rico on Wednesday as the strongest storm to hit the U.S. territory in nearly 90 years.

It ripped apart homes, snapped power lines and turned roads into raging debris-laden rivers as it cut across the island of 3.4 million people.

In Old San Juan, Plaza de Colon, one of the grand squares adorning the colonial heart of the capital, was choked with broken branches and trees felled by the storm. Pigeons paced the square looking for scraps, their plumage threadbare.

Aiden Short, 28, a debris management worker from London, said he had headed to the British Virgin Islands to help clean up the devastation of Hurricane Irma when Maria trapped him in San Juan.

RELATED: Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico

25 PHOTOS
Hurricane Maria makes landfall in Puerto Rico
See Gallery
Hurricane Maria makes landfall in Puerto Rico
A man looks for valuables in the damaged house of a relative after the area was hit by Hurricane Maria in Guayama, Puerto Rico September 20, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A damaged house is seen after the area was hit by Hurricane Maria en Guayama, Puerto Rico September 20, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
A damaged supermarket is seen after the area was hit by Hurricane Maria in Guayama, Puerto Rico September 20, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Damaged electrical installations are seen after the area was hit by Hurricane Maria en Guayama, Puerto Rico September 20, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A man rides a bicycle next to a flooded road after the area was hit by Hurricane Maria in Guayama, Puerto Rico September 20, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Debris and damaged electrical installations are seen after the area was hit by Hurricane Maria en Guayama, Puerto Rico September 20, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
A woman cuts a fallen tree into pieces after the area was hit by Hurricane Maria in Guayama, Puerto Rico September 20, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Toys are seen in a damaged house after the area was hit by Hurricane Maria in Guayama, Puerto Rico September 20, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
A damaged pier is seen after the area was hit by Hurricane Maria in Puerto de Jobos, Puerto Rico September 20, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Damages are seen in a supermarket after the area was hit by Hurricane Maria in Guayama, Puerto Rico September 20, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
A man runs on the street next to debris and damaged cars after the area was hit by Hurricane Maria in Guayama, Puerto Rico September 20, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Damages are seen in a supermarket after the area was hit by Hurricane Maria in Guayama, Puerto Rico September 20, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Constructions debris are carried by the wind after the area was hit by Hurricane Maria in Guayama, Puerto Rico September 20, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Agapito Lopez looks at the damage in his house after the area was hit by Hurricane Maria in Guayama, Puerto Rico September 20, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Branches lie on the ground as trees blow in the wind from the passage of the Hurricane Maria, seen outside Roberto Clemente Coliseum where residents have sought shelter in San Juan, Puerto Rico, early on September 20, 2017. Hurricane Maria closed in on the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico on September 20 as forecasters warned of a 'potentially catastrophic' storm that has already killed at least two people in the Caribbean. / AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMAL (Photo credit should read HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images)
This view shows the rain from the passage of the Hurricane Maria from Roberto Clemente Coliseum where residents have sought shelter in San Juan, Puerto Rico, early on September 20, 2017. Hurricane Maria closed in on the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico on September 20 as forecasters warned of a 'potentially catastrophic' storm that has already killed at least two people in the Caribbean. / AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMAL (Photo credit should read HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images)
Residents seek shelter inside Roberto Clemente Coliseum in San Juan, Puerto Rico, early on September 20, 2017, as Hurricane Maria passes the island. Hurricane Maria closed in on the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico on September 20 as forecasters warned of a 'potentially catastrophic' storm that has already killed at least two people in the Caribbean. / AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMAL (Photo credit should read HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images)
A general view of Aguirre thermoelectric plant during the rain before the arrival of the Hurricane Maria in Guayama, Puerto Rico September 19, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Residents seek shelter inside Roberto Clemente Coliseum in San Juan, Puerto Rico, early on September 20, 2017, as Hurricane Maria passes the island. Hurricane Maria closed in on the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico on September 20 as forecasters warned of a 'potentially catastrophic' storm that has already killed at least two people in the Caribbean. / AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMAL (Photo credit should read HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images)
The top of a church is seen through branches as Hurricane Maria hits Puerto Rico in Fajardo, on September 20, 2017. Maria made landfall on Puerto Rico on Wednesday, pummeling the US territory after already killing at least two people on its passage through the Caribbean. The US National Hurricane Center warned of 'large and destructive waves' as Maria came ashore near Yabucoa on the southeast coast. / AFP PHOTO / Ricardo ARDUENGO (Photo credit should read RICARDO ARDUENGO/AFP/Getty Images)
Hurricane Maria hits Puerto Rico in Fajardo on September 20, 2017. Maria made landfall on Puerto Rico on Wednesday, pummeling the US territory after already killing at least two people on its passage through the Caribbean. The US National Hurricane Center warned of 'large and destructive waves' as Maria came ashore near Yabucoa on the southeast coast. / AFP PHOTO / Ricardo ARDUENGO (Photo credit should read RICARDO ARDUENGO/AFP/Getty Images)
A man looks as trees are toppled in a parking lot at Roberto Clemente Coliseum in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on September 20, 2017, during the passage of the Hurricane Maria. Maria made landfall on Puerto Rico on Wednesday, pummeling the US territory after already killing at least two people on its passage through the Caribbean. The US National Hurricane Center warned of 'large and destructive waves' as Maria came ashore near Yabucoa on the southeast coast. / AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMAL (Photo credit should read HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images)
Trees are toppled in a parking lot at Roberto Clemente Coliseum in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on September 20, 2017, during the passage of the Hurricane Maria. Maria made landfall on Puerto Rico on Wednesday, pummeling the US territory after already killing at least two people on its passage through the Caribbean. The US National Hurricane Center warned of 'large and destructive waves' as Maria came ashore near Yabucoa on the southeast coast. / AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMAL (Photo credit should read HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images)
Hurricane Maria hits Puerto Rico in Fajardo. on September 20, 2017. Maria made landfall on Puerto Rico on Wednesday, pummeling the US territory after already killing at least two people on its passage through the Caribbean. The US National Hurricane Center warned of 'large and destructive waves' as Maria came ashore near Yabucoa on the southeast coast. / AFP PHOTO / Ricardo ARDUENGO (Photo credit should read RICARDO ARDUENGO/AFP/Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

“I was supposed to have come as a professional, but now I’ve just had to weather the storm,” Short said. “But now it looks like I might be useful here.”

All of Puerto Rico was under a flash flood warning early on Thursday as the tail end of the storm could bring another 4 to 8 inches (10-20 cm) of rain on Thursday, bringing the storm’s total to 35 inches (89 cm) in parts of the island, the NHC said.

Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello said there was one death reported so far, a man struck by a piece of lumber hurled by high winds.

“It’s nothing short of a major disaster,” he said in a CNN interview, adding it might take months for the island’s electricity to be completely restored. He imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew that runs through Saturday.

RELATED: Hurricane Maria rocks the Caribbean

19 PHOTOS
Hurricane Maria rocks the Caribbean
See Gallery
Hurricane Maria rocks the Caribbean
Boats remain anchored in a wharf as Hurricane Maria approaches in Guadeloupe island, France, September 18, 2017. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares
A woman covers herself with a raincoat while looking out at the ocean as Hurricane Maria approaches in Petit-Bourg, Guadeloupe island, France, September 18, 2017. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares
A car passes next to a banner warning of a "Red Alert" for rains as Hurricane Maria approaches in Pointe-a-Pitre, Guadeloupe island, France, September 18, 2017. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares
A car drives along an empty street as Hurricane Maria approaches in Pointe-a-Pitre, Guadeloupe island, France, September 18, 2017. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares
A woman crosses a street as Hurricane Maria approaches in Pointe-a-Pitre, Guadeloupe island, France, September 18, 2017. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares
People sit on the side of an empty street as Hurricane Maria approaches in Pointe-a-Pitre, Guadeloupe island, France, September 18, 2017. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares
A man walks in a square as Hurricane Maria approaches in Pointe-a-Pitre, Guadeloupe island, France, September 18, 2017. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares
A woman takes a selfie as Hurricane Maria approaches in Petit-Bourg, Guadeloupe island, France, September 18, 2017. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares
A handler works in one of the USS Kearsarge's control rooms near a live schematic of the flight deck as the vessel handles some of the evacuation of U.S. military personnel from the U.S. Virgin Islands in advance of Hurricane Maria, in the Caribbean Sea near the islands September 18, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake
Soldiers from the 602nd Area Support Medical Company wait on a beach for a Navy landing craft as their unit evacuates in advance of Hurricane Maria, in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands September 17, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A Marine Corps MV-22B Osprey takes off from the USS Kearsarge aircraft carrier as U.S. military continues to evacuate personnel from the U.S. Virgin Islands in advance of Hurricane Maria, in the Caribbean Sea near the islands September 17, 2017. Picture taken on September 17, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake
The Army's 602nd Area Support Medical Company boards the U.S.S. Kearsarge aircraft carrier from a Navy landing craft during their evacuation from the U.S. Virgin Islands in advance of Hurricane Maria September 17, 2017. Picture taken September 17, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake
Soldiers from the 602nd Area Support Medical Company and other Army personnel board a Navy landing craft during their evacuation in advance of Hurricane Maria, in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands September 17, 2017. Picture taken September 17, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake
U.S. Army soldiers board a Navy landing craft during their evacuation in advance of Hurricane Maria, in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands September 17, 2017. Picture taken September 17, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake
Soldiers from the 602nd Area Support Medical Company wait on a beach for a Navy landing craft as their unit evacuates in advance of Hurricane Maria, in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands September 17, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake
The deck of a U.S. Navy landing craft is crowded with Army soldiers and their belongings as they are evacuated in advance of Hurricane Maria, off St. Thomas shore, U.S. Virgin Islands September 17, 2017. Picture taken September 17, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake
Crewmen direct a Navy MH-60S Sea Hawk departing the USS Kearsarge as U.S. military continues to evacuate from the U.S. Virgin Islands in advance of Hurricane Maria, in the Caribbean Sea near the islands September 18, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake
Army Specialist Cerelai Spencer of Spring Lake, North Carolina, carries the 602nd Area Support Medical Company flag out of the surf after placing it there for a company, during some down time as they await transport on a Navy landing craft during their evacuation in advance of Hurricane Maria, in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands September 17, 2017. Picture taken September 17, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

MORE EXPECTED TO SEEK SHELTER

The government did not yet have an estimate of how many homes and businesses were destroyed by the storm. But authorities expected to see more people go to shelters on Thursday as they realized how badly their homes were hit, said Pedro Cerame, a spokesman for Rossello.

Thousands went to government shelters during the storm.

The island’s recovery could be complicated by its financial woes as it faces the largest municipal debt crisis in U.S. history. Both its government and the public utility have filed for bankruptcy protection amid disputes with creditors.

Maria was about 95 miles (150 kms) north of Punta Cana, on the east coast of the Dominican Republic on Thursday morning, the NHC said.

Punta Cana, a popular tourist area, was hit with wind gusts of 58 mph (93 kph) and Maria was forecast to bring storm surges, when hurricanes push ocean water dangerously over normal levels, of up to 6 feet (1.83 m) in the Dominican Republic, it said.

Maria was forecast to move north in the Atlantic Ocean over the weekend. It currently looked unlikely to hit the continental United States.

It was a rare Category 5 storm when it struck Dominica on Monday night, damaging about 95 percent of the roofs on the island of 73,000 people, one of the poorest in the Caribbean, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said.

Passing early Wednesday just west of St. Croix, home to about 55,000 people, Maria damaged an estimated 65 percent to 70 percent of the island’s buildings, said Holland Redfield, who served six terms in the U.S. Virgin Islands senate.

President Donald Trump declared a major disaster in the U.S. Virgin Islands and ordered federal aid to supplement recovery efforts, the White House said.

The U.S. and British Virgin Islands were also hit this month by Hurricane Irma, which ranked as one of the most powerful Atlantic storms on record. It left a trail of destruction in several Caribbean islands and Florida, killing at least 84 people.

Reporting by Dave Graham and Robin Respaut in San Juan; Writing by Jon Herskovitz and Scott Malone; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Frances Kerry

Read Full Story