MIAMI – Heavy rains caused by the potentially catastrophic category 5 Hurricane Maria have begun to affect the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) reported on Tuesday.
Hurricane Maria, which intensified again packing maximum sustained winds hitting 280 km/h, is located 100 km southeast of Saint Croix (US Virgin Islands) and 255 km southeast of San Juan (Puerto Rico), the NHC said in its latest public advisory released at 0000 GMT.
The NHC reported that Hurricane Maria is approaching the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico on Tuesday with “destructive” winds, storm surges and torrential rains.
The hurricane is moving toward the west-northwest with a speed of 17 km/h, and according to its forecasted track, its eye “will move near or over St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands tonight, cross Puerto Rico on Wednesday, and then pass just north of the coast of the Dominican Republic Wednesday night and Thursday,” the Miami-based NHC added.
Only a few days ago both the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico suffered the catastrophe caused by Hurricane Irma, as well a powerful category 5 hurricane that caused at least 26 deaths in the Caribbean and more than 30 in the US.
Hurricane Irma also brought about destructions in Barbuda, Saint Martin, northern Cuba and the Florida Keys as well as South Florida.
During the next day or so, Hurricane Maria will see “some fluctuations in intensity,” but will remain “an extremely dangerous category 4 or 5 hurricane as it moves near or over the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico,” the center said.
“Preparations against life-threatening storm surge and rainfall flooding and destructive winds should be rushed to completion,” the NHC warned residents.
The islands of Guadeloupe, Martinique and Dominica suffered serious damages to infrastructure and so far are the ones that have seen the worst effects from Hurricane Maria’s passage, which crosses the Caribbean toward the west.
Meanwhile, Puerto Rico’s industrial sector warned Tuesday of a possible collapse of the electricity system if Hurricane Maria hits the island, while thousands of foreign residents and tourists have sought refuge in hotels and friends’ houses in the face of the imminent arrival of the hurricane.