Sun | May 27, 2018

A stunned nation seeks to rebuild from Maria

Published:Friday | September 22, 2017 | 12:00 AM
People walk next to a gas station flooded and damaged by the impact of Hurricane Maria, which hit the eastern region of the island, in Humacao, Puerto Rico yesterday.


Rescuers fanned out to reach stunned victims yesterday, and millions of Puerto Ricans faced the dispiriting prospect of weeks or even months without electricity after Hurricane Maria ravaged the island.

Maria's death toll across the Caribbean climbed to at least 19, nearly all of them on the hard-hit island of Dominica.

The storm slammed into Puerto Rico on Wednesday with 155mph (249kph) winds, the strongest hurricane to hit the US territory in over 80 years.

It knocked out the entire electrical grid, destroyed homes, and touched off ruinous flooding, though the full extent of the damage was still a question mark yesterday because communication with some towns was cut off.

Uprooted trees and floodwaters blocked many highways and streets across the island of 3.4 million people, creating a maze that forced drivers to go against traffic. Some people resorted to rafts and kayaks to get around. Police used loudspeakers to warn people about a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew imposed by the governor.

Crumbled red roof tiles lay scattered across many roads, and residents sidestepped or ducked under dozens of black power lines. Officials were unable to say when electricity would return.

President Donald Trump approved a federal disaster declaration for the island, which got sideswiped by Hurricane Irma two weeks ago.

As of yesterday afternoon, Maria was moving off the northern coast of the Dominican Republic with winds of 120mph (195kph). The storm was expected to approach The Turks and Caicos Islands and The Bahamas late Thursday and early Friday. From there, it is expected to veer into the open Atlantic, no threat to the US mainland.