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.
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.
“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.