Hurricane Maria lashes Dominica, now menaces other islands

Hurricane Maria pounded the small island of Dominica with catastrophic winds overnight, starting a charge into the eastern Caribbean that threatens islands already devastated by Hurricane Irma and holds the possibility of a direct hit on Puerto Rico.

Fierce winds and rain lashed mountainous Dominica for hours as Maria caused flooding and tore roofs from homes as an extremely dangerous Category 5 storm. A police official on the island, Inspector Pellam Jno Baptiste, said overnight that there were no immediate reports of casualties but it was too dangerous for officers to do a full assessment as the storm raged outside.

“Where we are, we can’t move,” he said in a brief phone interview late Monday night while hunkered down against the region’s second Category 5 hurricane this month.

Maria weakened slightly — and briefly — early Tuesday to a still major Category 4 storm after pounding the small Caribbean island nation. But the fluctuation in intensity proved to be short-lived as a hurricane hunter plane reported the hurricane had regained a fearsome Category 5 status within hours of passing over Dominica.

Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit earlier captured the fury of Maria as it made landfall. “The winds are merciless! We shall survive by the grace of God,” Skerrit wrote at the start of a series of increasingly harrowing posts on Facebook.

A few minutes later, he messaged he could hear the sound of galvanized steel roofs tearing off houses on the small rugged island.

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