World

Hurricane Maria makes landfall in Puerto Rico

SAN JUAN: Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico yesterday as the strongest storm to hit the US territory in nearly 90 years.

Maria, the second major hurricane to roar through the Caribbean this month, made landfall near Yabucoa island.

Buildings trembled as the storm battered capital San Juan and sent torn off pieces of metal barricades clattering along streets.

Broken windows, mangled awnings and gutters dangled from buildings or were ripped off entirely. Toilets bubbled noisily and belched foul air as the hurricane rumbled through the city's water and sewage lines.

Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello told residents to brace for "the worst storm of the last century", opening 500 shelters that can accommodate 67,000 people.

Puerto Ricans had scrambled to board up windows and buy last minute supplies as the storm approached the densely populated island of 3.5 million.

"Be careful, our hearts are with you - will be there to help!" tweeted US President Donald Trump.

The US and British Virgin Islands - still struggling to recover from Hurricane Irma - are also on alert, along with parts of the Dominican Republic.

Governor Rossello tweeted that more than 11,000 people had sought shelter already, with nearly 600 pets in tow.

In the US Virgin Islands, residents reported horizontal rain and trees swirling in the wind.

"We can hear debris banging on the aluminium windows," said 31-year-old Coral Megahy, hunkered down on St Croix island.

In Guadeloupe, one person was killed by a falling tree as Maria hit, while another died on the seafront. At least two are missing after their boat sank off the French territory.

Some 40 per cent of households in the archipelago of 400,000 do not have power.

In nearby Dominica, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit posted on Facebook on Tuesday that there were initial reports of "widespread devastation".

Communications to the island of 73,000 people have been cut, and its airports and ports have been closed. - AFP

TYPHOON/HURRICANEWeatherclimate