Hurricane Maria slammed into Dominica yesterday (Sept. 18) as a massive category-5 storm causing “mind boggling” damage, according to prime minister Roosevelt Skerrit.
The residents of the Caribbean island had little time to prepare for Maria’s onslaught—the storm was one of the fastest-growing in recent memory, strengthening from category 1 to category 5 in just 30 hours.
Skerrit had just returned from a trip to St. Martin on Sunday (Sept. 17) to visit with the government and people affected by Hurricane Irma, when Maria was upgraded to a hurricane. On Monday morning, Skerrit warned that while the government had done what it could to prepare, citizens should “take no chances.” On Monday evening, Maria tore through the small island (population: 73,000) with maximum wind speeds of 160 mph.
As the storm hit land, Skerrit posted updates on Facebook while taking shelter in his house and the impact of Hurricane Maria hitting Dominica played out live via Skerrit’s haunting messages:
Then, thankfully, a few minutes later:
Finally, the prime minister posted an update early today, reporting “widespread devastation” and that the island nation “will need help of all kinds”:
Phone and internet services on Dominica are down, so the prime minister’s final post was the first official communication from the island after Maria’s eye passed over. While there is not yet an official report of any deaths or injuries from Maria, Skerrit’s post says his focus is “now is in rescuing the trapped and securing medical assistance for the injured.”
Maria is the strongest hurricane on record ever to make landfall on Dominica, putting its economy, which relies primarily on tourism and agriculture, in jeopardy for the short-term future.
Residents in the nearby Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico had another day or two to prepare for the storm, which is expected to make landfall tonight or early on Wednesday.