Death toll from Hurricane Maria rises to 17

  • 22/09/2017
The hurricane heavily damaged the Caribbean.
The hurricane heavily damaged the Caribbean. Photo credit: Getty.

Deadly Hurricane Maria flooded parts of the Dominican Republic and continued to dump heavy rain on the US territory of Puerto Rico after destroying buildings and knocking out power to the entire island.

The second major hurricane to rage through the Caribbean this month, Maria has killed a total of 17 people and devastated several small islands, including St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands and Dominica.

Maria was carrying sustained winds of up to 185 km/h as it moved away from the Dominican Republic on a track that would take it near the Turks and Caicos Islands and the south-eastern Bahamas on Thursday night and Friday.

The hurricane was ranked a Category 4 storm, near the top of the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, with winds of up to 250 kph, when it made landfall on Puerto Rico on Wednesday, as the strongest storm to hit the island in nearly 90 years.

Officials in Puerto Rico, home to 3.4 million people, were still assessing the extent of the damage.

US President Donald Trump told reporters the storm "totally obliterated" the island.

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.

In the historic heart of the island's capital San Juan, which has a fort and buildings from the Spanish colonial era, the storm left a litter of broken branches, trees and other debris.

The government did not yet have an estimate of how many homes and businesses were destroyed by the storm.

Some 1,255 homes in the Dominican Republic were damaged by the storm, the country's Center for Emergency Operations said in a statement.

The north-eastern coastal town of Miches was among badly affected places, with hundreds of houses damaged and downed trees blocking access roads.

Maria, which could strengthen somewhat over the coming day or so, was forecast to move north in the Atlantic Ocean over the weekend.

At least 14 people died on the island of Dominica, CNN quoted Charles Jong, a spokesman for Dominica prime minister's office, as saying.

Two people were killed in the French territory of Guadeloupe.