Washington, Sep 19: The “potentially catastrophic” Category 5 hurricane Maria, the strongest storm on record to make landfall in Dominica, is battering the Caribbean island, and is on course directly hit Puerto Rico, the first time in 85 years, the media reported.
A statement from the National Hurricane Centre (NHC) said that its record-topping winds reached 160 miles per hour when it made landfall at 9.15 p.m. on Monday night, reports CNN.
It was so powerful that it tore the roof off the residence of the country’s leader.
“My roof is gone,” Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit posted on Facebook. “I am at the complete mercy of the hurricane. House is flooding.”
Later, he said: “I have been rescued.”
After Dominica, Maria will move towards Puerto Rico as an “extremely dangerous major hurricane, and a warning has been issued”, CNN quoted the NHC as saying.
Puerto Rico’s Governor Ricardo Rossello has declared a state of emergency ahead of the landfall expected on Wednesday.
US President Donald Trump has issued an emergency declaration for the American territory for federal assistance to augment the island nation’s storm-response initiatives.
Puerto Rico housing authorities said there are 450 shelters able to take in 62,714 evacuees, and up to 125,428 in an emergency situation.
If Maria strikes the island as forecast, it will be “more dangerous than Hugo and Georges”, the Centre said.
Hurricane Hugo killed five people in Puerto Rico in 1989, and Hurricane Georges caused more than $1.7 billion in damage to the island in 1998.
The storm will affect parts of the Leeward Islands and the British and US Virgin Islands for next couple of days.
Maria comes after the catastrophic hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas on August 25 resulting in massive floods and deaths of 83 people.
Harvey was followed by Irma, the most intense storm in the Atlantic. It hit the Caribbean islands on August 30, leaving a trail of destruction through Puerto Rico, Cuba and Florida and killed 82 people.