Dominican Devastation, Puerto Rico Plunged into Darkness

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In the hours before disaster response teams could begin the journey by sea or air to Dominica on Tuesday, radio operators on the island and their peers around the world were able to get out communications to give an early picture of the state of the island after the passage of Hurricane Maria on Monday night.

At the end of a long day, a summary of what was learnt from the amateur radio broadcasts was most non-cement roofs are gone, most roads are impassable, and seven deaths had been confirmed.

Reportedly, patient care had been compromised at the damaged hospital and the country is “in a daze” with no electricity or running water. Communication via landline and cell phone was expected to be down for a while.

In Puerto Rico, it was said that Maria hammered the island with force not seen in “modern history”, knocking out power and water to nearly the entire population.

“On the forecast track, (Maria) would be the most destructive hurricane in Puerto Rico history,” tweeted Eric Blake, a forecaster at the National Hurricane Center.

The storm first slammed the coast near Yabucoa at 6.15am on Wednesday as a Category 4 hurricane with 155 mph winds – the first Category 4 storm to directly strike the island since 1932.

By midmorning, Maria had fully engulfed the 100-mile-long island as winds snapped palm trees, peeled off rooftops, sent debris skidding across beaches and roads, and cut power to nearly the entire island.

Video clips posted on social media showed a street turned into a river of muddy floodwaters and structures destroyed.

Speaking on NBC’s ‘Today’ show on Wednesday morning, Puerto Rico’s governor, Ricardo Rosselló, said conditions were “deteriorating rapidly”.

At least 15 people were killed in Puerto Rico, the island’s El Nuevo Día‏ newspaper reported.

Earlier report: Sept 19, Hurricane Maria ‘Devastates’ Dominica