SAN JUAN – Six people died in Puerto Rico as a result of the destruction wrought by Hurricane Maria, Radio Isla 1320 said on Thursday.
Maria slammed into this US commonwealth on Wednesday, bringing 250 km/h (155 mph) winds and torrential rains that caused widespread flooding and damage.
Gov. Ricardo Rossello said on Wednesday night that a man in Bayamon was killed when he was struck by a wood panel he was using to protect his home from the powerful winds.
Radio Isla 1320 reported Thursday that five other people perished in the storm, including three sisters residing in the west-central town of Utuado.
US Coast Guard and Navy vessels have been joined by units of Britain’s Royal Navy in the search for a boat with two adults and two children aboard that went missing near the Puerto Rican island of Vieques.
Authorities rescued around 100 people who were trapped by floodwaters in the northern coastal town of Toa Baja.
Maria devastated the electrical grid, uprooted trees, knocked down traffic signs, tore the roofs off of houses, caused severe flooding and littered streets with mud and debris.
Authorities said that in a best-case scenario it would take weeks to fully restore power. For now, only a few hotels and other buildings with generators have electricity, while telephone service is intermittent at best.
The storm hit Puerto Rico even as it was still reeling from Hurricane Irma, which struck the Caribbean island earlier this month.
Before reaching Puerto Rico, Maria left eight people dead on two small eastern Caribbean islands – seven in Dominica and one in Guadeloupe.
Puerto Rican authorities are currently assessing the damage and still have not yet provided an estimate, but the cost is expected to run into the billions.
At Gov. Rossello’s request, US President Donald Trump approved a disaster declaration for Puerto Rico and ordered the provision of federal assistance to supplement the island’s recovery efforts, the White House said Thursday.
Also Thursday, Trump announced plans to visit Puerto Rico and said the island had been “absolutely obliterated” by Hurricane Maria.
US authorities have sent rescue teams to the island, which is to remains under a 6 pm-6 am curfew at least until Saturday to avoid a repeat of the looting that occurred on Wednesday afternoon in San Juan once the winds began to decrease in intensity.