Hurricane Maria 'leaves 15 dead in Dominica'

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image caption"It has been brutal," Mr Skerrit says of the destruction in Dominica

At least 15 people are dead and 20 others are missing on Dominica after Hurricane Maria, the Caribbean island's prime minister has said.

It was a miracle that the death toll was not in the hundreds, PM Roosevelt Skerrit tearfully told a local television station.

Hurricane Maria ripped through Dominica as a category four storm late on Monday, damaging hundreds of homes.

The storm later devastated Puerto Rico, leaving the whole island without power.

Mr Skerrit said he has spent the last 24 hours surveying by air the destruction caused by the powerful storm.

"It has been brutal," he said on Thursday on the nearby island of Antigua. "We've never seen such destruction."

Homes have been flattened, schools have been destroyed, telecommunications have been cut off and the island's main hospital is still without electricity, he said.

The hospital's generators had to be set aside because of flooding and officials were still working to see if they could be turned on.

media captionAerial footage of the aftermath in Dominica

He added the island is "going to need all the help the world has to offer".

Meanwhile, authorities in Puerto Rico are urging residents to seek higher ground ahead of flash flooding - with up to 30 inches (76cm) more rain predicted by Saturday - in the aftermath of Maria.

The island's Governor Ricardo Rossello described the hurricane as "the most devastating storm in a century" and said that Maria had hit the island's electricity grid so badly that it could take months to restore power.

image copyrightReuters
image captionHurricane Maria damaged buildings in Puerto Rico and left streets covered in debris

Images shared on social media show roofs being stripped away as winds as strong as 140 mph (225 km/h) whipped trees and power lines in Puerto Rico's capital city, San Juan.

Maria, now a category three storm, is moving off the northern coast of the Dominican Republic and heading towards the Turks and Caicos Islands.

The storm has claimed at least 17 lives so far across the Caribbean, with many others missing, officials say. Two people were killed in the French territory of Guadeloupe.

US President Donald Trump said the storm had "totally obliterated" the US territory, and pledged to visit Puerto Rico.

He has yet to declare the island a disaster area but has made federal emergency aid available.

At the scene: A city under curfew

By Will Grant in San Juan, Puerto Rico

media captionHurricane Maria: Puerto Rico faces long road to recovery

Not far down the coast from the Puerto Rican capital, the small town of Cataño is trying to pick itself up after Hurricane Maria. The massive storm hit the town with incredible power when it swept over the island, tearing roofs off homes, flooding many houses and even destroying entire buildings.

The whole town is now gingerly making its way outside to begin the daunting task of clearing up. Some though, have nowhere to start.

I spoke to one resident, Juan Romero as he surveyed what's left of his house: a tangled pile of wooden beams, rubble and twisted metal. "All I own is the clothes I'm wearing," he told me. Nevertheless he was just thankful to have survived.

His neighbour then called me over to see her kitchen, its roof ripped clean off. Evelyn had also lost much, all her possessions were soaked and need replacing. However, it was concern for her aged mother that moved her to tears. At 101 years old she is too frail to be made to live elsewhere at this stage in life.

Just as I was leaving their street, a small piece of good news: Juan Romero found his two cats that had been missing in the ruins of his home, Blanca and Negra. Drenched and scared, they were at least alive.

It is the second devastating storm to hit the Caribbean this hurricane season - the first being category five Irma earlier in September.

Irma was one of the most powerful Atlantic storms on record, killing at least 84 people in the Caribbean and US.

The hurricane followed Harvey, which killed more than 80 people after it barrelled through Texas last month.


A guide to the world's deadliest storms

Hurricanes are violent storms that can bring devastation to coastal areas, threatening lives, homes and businesses.

Hurricanes develop from thunderstorms, fuelled by warm, moist air as they cross sub-tropical waters.
Warm air rises into the storm.

Air swirls in to fill the low pressure in the storm, sucking air in and upwards, reinforcing the low pressure.

The storm rotates due to the spin of the earth and energy from the warm ocean increases wind speeds as it builds.

When winds reach 119km/h (74mph), it is known as a hurricane - in the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific - or a typhoon in the Western Pacific.

"Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face. Well, we're about to get punched in the face."
Florida Mayor Bob Buckhorn, ahead of Hurricane Irma (2017)

The central eye of calmer weather is surrounded by a wall of rainstorms.
This eyewall has the fastest winds below it and violent currents of air rising through it.

A mound of water piles up below the eye which is unleashed as the storm reaches land.
These storm surges can cause more damage from flooding than the winds.

"Urgent warning about the rapid rise of water on the SW FL coast with the passage of #Irma's eye. MOVE AWAY FROM THE WATER!"
Tweet from the National Hurricane Center

The size of hurricanes is mainly measured by the Saffir-Simpson scale - other scales are used in Asia Pacific and Australia.

Winds 119-153km/h
Some minor flooding, little structural damage.
Storm surge +1.2m-1.5m

Winds 154-177km/h
Roofs and trees could be damaged.
Storm surge +1.8m-2.4m

Winds 178-208km/h
Houses suffer damage, severe flooding
Storm surge +2.7m-3.7m

Hurricane Sandy (2012) caused $71bn damage in the Caribbean and New York

Winds 209-251km/h
Some roofs destroyed and major structural damage to houses.
Storm surge +4m-5.5m

Hurricane Ike (2008) hit Caribbean islands and Louisiana and was blamed for at least 195 deaths

Winds 252km/h+
Serious damage to buildings, severe flooding further inland.
Storm surge +5.5m

Hurricane Irma (2017) caused devastation in Caribbean islands, leaving thousands homeless

"For everyone thinking they can ride this storm out, I have news for you: that will be one of the biggest mistakes you can make in your life."
Mayor of New Orleans Ray Nagin ahead of Hurricane Gustav, 2008

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