Hurricane Maria ‘devastates’ Dominica: PM
Dominica has suffered “widespread damage” from Hurricane Maria, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit says.
“We have lost all that money can buy,” he said in a Facebook post.
The hurricane suddenly strengthened to a “potentially catastrophic” category five storm, before making landfall on the Caribbean island.
Earlier Mr Skerrit had posted live updates as his own roof was torn off, saying he was “at the complete mercy of the hurricane”.
“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,” he wrote after being rescued.
Maria is moving roughly along the same track as Irma, the hurricane that devastated the region earlier this month.
It has maximum sustained winds of 250km/h (155mph), and was downgraded to a category four after hitting Dominica, before picking up full strength again.
Life-threatening mudslides, flash floods and storm surges have been predicted by the US National Hurricane Center, which monitors the region.
How was Dominica affected?
Dominica, a former British colony with a population of 72,000, is less than 50km long and 25km wide, and the eye of the storm passed directly over it.
It made landfall at 21:00 local time (01:00 GMT Tuesday), and Dominica’s PM has called the damage “devastating” and “mind boggling”.
“My focus now is in rescuing the trapped and securing medical assistance for the injured,” he said, and called on the international community for help. “We will need help, my friend, we will need help of all kinds.”
Curtis Matthew, a journalist based in the capital, Roseau, told the BBC that conditions went “very bad, rapidly”.
“We still don’t know what the impact is going to be when this is all over. But what I can say it does not look good for Dominica as we speak,” he said.
All ports and airports are closed and residents near the coast have been ordered to go to authorized shelters.
How did it gather strength so fast?
Maria jumped from a category three to a brutal category five within just a few hours, which was an unexpected shock for people in Dominica.
A factor in its rapid development is that local sea surface temperatures are currently anomalously high by a margin of around one to two degrees, says BBC weather forecaster Steve Cleaton.
The elevated sea surface temperature will have contributed to the rapid development of this system, in concert with other very favourable atmospheric conditions within the locale such as low wind shear, our meteorologist adds.
Maria is currently heading towards the French island of Guadeloupe, where authorities have told residents to seek shelter and not go out under any circumstances.
Montserrat, a British Overseas Territory just to its north, is likely to be affected after that.