At least 25 dead as Maria hits Caribbean

Hurricane Maria has lashed the Turks and Caicos Islands after destroying homes, causing widespread flooding, crippling economies and killing at least 25 people on Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands.


Maria was the second major hurricane to hit the Caribbean this month and the strongest storm to hit Puerto Rico in nearly 90 years.

It completely knocked out the island’s power, and several rivers hit record flood levels.

Puerto Rico officials confirmed on Friday that six people had been killed by the storm.

Three died in landslides in Utuadno, in the island’s mountainous center; two drowned in flooding in Toa Baja, west of San Juan, and one died in Bayamon, also near San Juan, after being stuck by a panel.

Earlier news media reports had the death toll on the island as high as 15.

Around San Juan, people worked to clear debris from the streets on Friday and some began to reopen businesses, though they wondered how long they could operate without power and with limited inventory.

“There’s no water, no power, nothing,” said Rogelio Jimenez, a 34-year-old restaurant worker, as he cleared fallen roofing from the front of his pizzeria.

“We’re opening today,” he said, estimating that the restaurant had enough supplies to last a week.

Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew through Saturday for the island’s 3.4 million people.

He said about 700 people had been rescued from floodwaters and communication was difficult with the south-eastern part of the island.

Puerto Rico was already facing the largest municipal debt crisis in US history.

A team of judges overseeing its bankruptcy has advised involved parties to put legal proceedings on hold indefinitely as the island recovers, said a source familiar with the proceedings.

The storm was expected to cause $US45 billion of damage across the Caribbean, with at least $US30 billion of that in Puerto Rico, said Chuck Watson, a disaster modeller at Enki Research in Savannah, Georgia.