Roseau, Dominica — Dominica’s leader sent out an emotional plea for help as Hurricane Maria smashed into the Caribbean island and caused “mind-boggling” devastation, but an ominous silence followed as the country lost all communications on Tuesday and the Category 5 hurricane barreled toward Puerto Rico, which looked likely to take a direct hit.
As rain began lashing the U.S. territory on Tuesday afternoon, Puerto Rico’s governor warned that Maria could hit “with a force and violence that we haven’t seen for several generations.”
“We’re going to lose a lot of infrastructure in Puerto Rico,” Gov. Ricardo Rossello said, adding that a likely island-wide power outage and communication blackout could last for days. “We’re going to have to rebuild.”
Authorities warned that people in wooden or flimsy homes should find safe shelter before the storm’s expected arrival on Wednesday.
“You have to evacuate. Otherwise, you’re going to die,” said Hector Pesquera, the island’s public safety commissioner. “I don’t know how to make this any clearer.”
The warnings came after Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit sent out a series of dramatic posts on his Facebook page as the storm blew over that tiny country late Monday — but then stopped suddenly as phone and internet connections with the country were cut.
“The winds are merciless! We shall survive by the grace of God,” Skerrit wrote before communications went down.
A few minutes later, he messaged he could hear the sound of galvanized steel roofing tearing off houses on the small rugged island. He said that even his own roof had blown away.
In the last message before falling silent, he appealed for international aid: “We will need help, my friends, we will need help of all kinds.”
Next in the storm’s path was St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where the storm was expected to hit late Tuesday. The island was largely spared the widespread damage caused by Hurricane Irma on the chain’s St. Thomas and St. John islands just two weeks ago.
To the north, Hurricane Jose stirred up dangerous surf and rip currents along the U.S. East Coast, though forecasters said the storm was unlikely to make landfall.
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