Hurricane Maria swept over the small island of Dominica with catastrophic Category 5 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 driving rain lashed mountainous Dominica for hours, causing flooding and tearing roofs from homes. A police official on the island, Insp. Pellam Jno Baptiste, said late Monday that there were no immediate reports of casualties but it was still 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 while hunkered down against the region’s second Category 5 hurricane this month.
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.
‘Rough! Rough! Rough!’
A few minutes later, he messaged he could hear the sound of galvanized steel roofs tearing off houses on the small rugged island.
He then wrote that he thought his home had been damaged. And three words: “Rough! Rough! Rough!”
A half hour later, he said: “My roof is gone. I am at the complete mercy of the hurricane. House is flooding.” Seven minutes later he posted that he had been rescued.
Officials in Guadeloupe said the French island near Dominica probably would experience heavy flooding and warned that many communities could be submerged. In nearby Martinique, authorities ordered people to remain indoors and said they should be prepared for power cuts and disruption in the water supply.
Authorities in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico warned that people in wooden or flimsy homes should find safe shelter before the storm’s expected arrival there on Wednesday.
“You have to evacuate. Otherwise you’re going to die,” said Hector Pesquera, Puerto Rico’s public safety commissioner. “I…