Thursday, September 21

Initial summaries of devastation in Caribbean caused by Hurricane Maria

By Pam Wright and Eric Chaney
Sep 21 2017 -  07:30 PM EDT

[see website for videos, photos]

Dominican Republic
Puerto Rico
Four main U.S. Virgin Islands
Story Highlights
Tens of thousands are without power in the Dominican Republic.
At least 19 people have died from the storm, including 15 in Dominica.
Puerto Rican emergency officials are reporting that 100 percent of the island is without power after Hurricane Maria.
Maria destroyed 80 percent of the homes in the Juana Matos neighborhood of the San Juan suburb of Cataño.
Dominica was made into a wasteland and communication with the island is non-existent except through satellite phones and HAM radio operators.
Tens of thousands were left without power in the Dominican Republic Thursday as deadly Hurricane Maria battered the country with torrential rainfall. 
“In the south zone there are four circuits out of service, and about 40,613 customers, or 30 percent of the population,” Dominican Corporation of State Electrical Companies (CDEEE) Emergency Operations Center representative Ernesto Perez told
He added that 45 of the east region’s 204 circuits were affected, which amounts to 100,000 customers. A downed power line between the towns of Playa Dorada and Cabarete has left the country's entire north coast without power. 
The storm has contributed to at least 19 deaths, including 15 from the devastated Caribbean island of Dominica, the country's prime minister announced Thursday.
Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit addressed his nation from Antigua Thursday afternoon, saying the storm was "brutal" to the Caribbean island. 
Skerrit confirmed that 15 people had died in the country and at least 20 are missing. He noted that the toll is likely to rise as word comes from isolated villages. 
At least two deaths were reported in Puerto Rico, including a man died who died off the coast of the island Wednesday after a boat capsized near Vieques, the U.S. Coast Guard reports. In a search and rescue effort by the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Navy and British Royal Navy, a woman and two children also on the boat were rescued.
The rescue came after a distress call was received from the vessel, stating they were disabled and adrift in 20-foot seas and 120 mph winds. The Coast Guard said it lost contact with the vessel because of the weather.
The Coast Guard said Thursday they were unable to retrieve the man's body from the capsized vessel.

Dominican Republic

Flooding was reported as winds downed power lines in the country Thursday, according to Reuters. 
The local Emergency Operations Center (COE) said 9,990 people were evacuated from their homes and most of the country was placed under flash flood and landslide warning, reports  

Puerto Rico

Residents of Puerto Rico woke Thursday to massive destruction in the wake of the hurricane and a new reality – one without electricity, water and, for many, a home to return to once roads cluttered with debris and power lines are cleared.
The storm smashed into the U.S. territory Wednesday morning as a Category 4 hurricane, twisting metal, snapping trees and utility poles and effectively paralyzing the island.
"Months and months and months and months are going to pass before we can recover from this," Felix Delgado, mayor of the northern coastal city of Cataño, told the Associated Press.
On Thursday, the National Guard were rescuing dozens of families from rooftops in flooded Levittown, east of San Juan.
The extent of the damage is still unknown given that dozens of municipalities remained isolated and without communication, the AP reported.
On Thursday, President Donald Trump issued a disaster declaration for the territory that is home to 3.4 million people, making federal funding available to Puerto Ricans affected by the storm.
The director of the State Agency for Emergency Management and Disaster Management, Abner Gómez, said that 100 percent of the subscribers of the island's Electric Energy Authority are affected, Primera Hora reported.
In San Juan, metal roofs flew off buildings and windows broke even before Hurricane Maria made landfall as a Category 4 storm on the island's southeastern coast early Wednesday morning.
"No generation has seen a hurricane like this since San Felipe II in 1928," Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló said Tuesday. "This is an unprecedented atmospheric system."
Those who sought shelter at the Roberto Clemente Coliseum in San Juan were moved to the building's second and third floors. According to El Nuevo Dia, the exterior roof of the coliseum is now "in pieces."
As the worst of the storm hit, people calling local radio stations reported that doors were flying off hinges and a water tank flew away in the island's southern region, the AP reports. Meanwhile, widespread flooding was reported in the capital of San Juan.
The storm has also done major damage to Cataño, a western suburb of the city. Mayor Felix Delgado told Nueva Dia the neighborhoods of Cucharilla, Puente Blanco and La Puntilla are "destroyed." Delgado also reported damage in the Juana Matos neighborhood, where 80 percent of the 457 houses in the area "should no longer exist."
"This generation is going to build the new Cataño," Delgado said. "We have to build the new Cataño, after Maria."
San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz said half the city was flooded Wednesday.
"We’re looking at four to six months without electricity," she added.

U.S. Virgin Islands 

There are reports of widespread damage on St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, the VI Consortium said, and many are pleading for help in compromised buildings. Major flooding is being reported on St. Thomas.
Gov. Kenneth E. Mapp announced a 24-hour curfew Thursday morning on the four main US Virgin Islands — St. Croix, St. Thomas, St. John and Water Island.
"Your presence on the roads during the curfew hours will only hamper clean-up efforts and could delay the distribution of critically needed supplies," Mapp said.
Communications were down across the islands Wednesday and the local government was working to assess the damage, Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency emergency operations supervisor Garry Green told the New York Times.
Photos and videos posted to social media out of the U.S. Virgin Islands showed major flooding on St. Thomas. On St. Croix, WTJX reporter Bob Tonge said the roads were blocked with downed wires and electrical poles. 
WTJX also reported numerous roofs were ripped off buildings in Christiansted town. Roads there remain impassable.
Recovery may be a long road as the island chain is short on crucial supplies, according to internal briefing documents obtained by Politico.
“There are supplies that are literally out to sea right now that are not being brought in,” FEMA spokesman Don Caetano told Politico by phone from St. Croix on Monday. “Had Maria not been a factor, those supplies would have been there already.”


There is still little word from Dominica after Maria crushed the island nation on Tuesday. An advisor to Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said seven people had died on the island, the AP reported.
With communication systems down, including electricity, phone lines and internet, much of the information coming from the devastated island is through HAM radio operators.
Initial images show a once tropical paradise that is home to more than 73,000 people turned into a wasteland of crushed homes and smashed vehicles. Areas with more than 90 percent of roofs ripped off of buildings are being reported.
An advisor to Skerrit was able to convey the news that seven people had died after speaking with the prime minister via satellite phone. Advisor Hartley Henry didn't give details about how the deaths occurred, the AP noted. Henry added that there has been a "tremendous loss of housing and public buildings."
Authorities at the Ross University School of Medicine said Wednesday in a Facebook post that they plan to evacuate students and staff to St. Lucia beginning on Thursday.
“Our crisis team continues to be in communication with the U.S. State Department about the possibility of a larger-scale military evacuation, but as of now, moving forward with our evacuation plan is our best choice,” Ross officials said.
“We plan to begin the transport of people with taking care of the children and elderly first. Each family will be permitted to have one parent travel with their children. We will also certainly transport anyone with any serious injuries in this first group, although we are grateful to report at this time that we have few reports of injuries, and those are said to be somewhat minor,” the post said.
During the storm early Tuesday, Skerrit posted on his Facebook page that "initial reports are of widespread devastation."
"So far we have lost all what money can buy and replace. My greatest fear for the morning is that we will wake to news of serious physical injury and possible deaths as a result of likely landslides triggered by persistent rains."
 The prime minister, who was reportedly left homeless because of the storm, said crews would begin rescue efforts as soon as the all-clear sign was given.
"I am honestly not preoccupied with physical damage at this time because it is devastating...indeed, mind-boggling," Skerrit wrote. "My focus now is in rescuing the trapped and securing medical assistance for the injured."


According to the Préfecture of Guadeloupe, one person was killed Tuesday morning on the French island after being struck by a falling tree. Authorities note that the person did not heed orders to remain indoors. A second death was reported Wednesday by the AP. Two people are also reported missing after a boat sank near the island of La Désirade.
According to a press release by Guadeloupe's Préfecture office, 80,000 – or 40 percent – of the homes on the island were without power as of Tuesday.
The prefecture reports that most of the island's roads are impassable from downed trees and flooding. While the majority of the buildings remain structurally sound, numerous roofs were ripped off.
In another French territory, Martinique, authorities said some 70,000 homes were without power and 50,000 without water, but the airport at Fort-de-France was reopened Tuesday.

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