Maria’s mind-boggling’ devastation
A Bermuda resident spoke of his concern for his home country yesterday after “potentially catastrophic” Hurricane Maria caused “mind-boggling” devastation in Dominica.
The second major Atlantic storm this month tore through the former British colony of Dominica before continuing its path of destruction towards Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
Retired police officer Sylvester Augustine said: “It’s terrible. There is a lot of devastation. I am very, very concerned. It’s going to be a while before they get back on their feet.”
The local resident said that at noon yesterday he had been unable to reach anyone since the storm hit.
Mr Augustine said: “I tried, but with negative results.”
He added that he had heard reports of roofs being blown off even before the storm fully hit because the winds were so strong.
Maria left a path of destruction in Dominica after it made landfall on Monday evening and Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit described the damage as “mind boggling”.
He wrote on Facebook: “Initial reports are of widespread devastation. So far we have lost all what money can buy and replace.
“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 added that winds had torn off the roofs of almost every person he had spoken to, including that of his official residence.
Mr Skerrit said rescue missions and damage assessments would start as soon as the all clear is given and he appealed to “friendly nations and organisations” for help.
After pummelling Dominica, Maria briefly dropped to a Category 4 hurricane before regaining strength and heading towards other Caribbean nations as a Category 5 storm with winds of 160mph.
Bermudian Roslyn Famous, who lives in Hato Rey, Puerto Rico, where the storm was forecast to make landfall early this morning, said residents were “preparing for the worst but hoping for the best”.
Ms Famous, who was running last-minute errands when she spoke to The Royal Gazette around noon local time, said: “Right now it’s just a very light breeze — it’s slightly overcast.
“Everybody is in the middle of preparing for the storm. People are boarding up windows with storm shutters and plywood.”
Ms Famous added that others were doing last-minute shopping before the stores closed.
But she added that people were preparing more for Maria than they had for Irma because of the chances of a direct hit.
Ms Famous was with her aunt in Tortola — the largest and most populous of the British Virgin Islands — when Category 5 Hurricane Irma slammed into the island on September 7.
She said: “It flattened Tortola. What was there was no longer there any more.”
Ms Famous and her aunt were evacuated to Puerto Rico on Thursday.
She added: “It’s hard because you were just trying to get over what you saw in Tortola. You know how hard it was. You didn’t have time to rest.
“Yesterday, I was just paralysed by anxiety, but you can’t let that stop you. You have to just write a list of things to do and get it done. You have to work through it.”
She added that she learnt from her experience in Tortola that no matter how much destruction there is, being alive is the most important thing.
“That’s the starting point, being alive even though it may be a hard road ahead.
“People on social media are panicking and there is a lot of fear. I am anxious but calm. It’s not going to be as bad.”
Ms Famous, who has been helping out at a shelter for people affected by Irma, said she planned to spend the night at a friend’s house.
Martinique, a French island south of Dominica, suffered power outages but avoided major damage and its airport was to resume some flights yesterday afternoon.
French island Guadeloupe, where one death has been confirmed, was also in the line of fire and authorities told residents to seek shelter and not go out under any circumstances.
A curfew was imposed on the British Virgin Islands on Monday night and residents were asked to stay indoors until the storm passed.
Hurricane warnings were issued for Guadeloupe, Montserrat, Dominica, St Kitts and Nevis, the US Virgin Islands, the British Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
Tropical storm warnings are also in force for Martinique, Antigua and Barbuda, Saba, St Eustatius, St Maarten and Anguilla.
The forecast track of the storm also shows it heading straight towards the Turks and Caicos Islands, where Royal Bermuda Regiment troops are working to repair damage caused by Irma, later this week.
The National Hurricane Centre said yesterday that the storm is “a potentially catastrophic Category 5 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale”.
And although some fluctuations in intensity are likely, it is forecast to remain “an extremely dangerous Category 4 or 5 hurricane until it moves near or over the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico” on Wednesday.
Maria, now a Category 4 hurricane, was 839 nautical miles south of Bermuda at noon today, and heading west northwest at 12mph.
The Bermuda Weather Service said the storm is not a threat to Bermuda at this time.
Its closest point within 72 hours is forecast to be 564 nautical miles to the southwest at noon on Saturday. But the BWS warned that it could move closer after this time.
Tropical Storm Jose, meanwhile, continued its path along the East Coast of the United States and is not considered a threat at this time.
Local fundraising efforts have been set up to help those affected by the storms.
Donations can be made to the West Indies Association’s Bank of Butterfield account 20006 060 870030 100 or to the Bermuda Red Cross through BNTB: 20006 060 663859 200.
The public can also donate to the Salvation Army online at: sar.my/amappeal.
For more information about the British Government’s advice on Hurricanes Irma and Maria, visit www.gov.uk/government/news/hurricane-irma-advice-for-british-nationals
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