Dominica has “lost all that money can buy”, the country’s prime minister has said after the nation was hit by Hurricane Maria.
Roosevelt Skerrit said in a Facebook post that he had received reports of “widespread devastation” and said that his own roof had been torn off.
He said: “My greatest fear for the morning is that we will wake to news of serious physical injury and possible deaths as a result of likely landslides triggered by persistent rains.
“So, far the winds have swept away the roofs of almost every person I have spoken to or otherwise made contact with. The roof to my own official residence was among the first to go and this apparently triggered an avalanche of torn away roofs in the city and the countryside.
“Come tomorrow morning we will hit the road, as soon as the all clear is given, in search of the injured and those trapped in the rubble.
“I am honestly not preoccupied with physical damage at this time, because it is devastating...indeed, mind boggling. My focus now is in rescuing the trapped and securing medical assistance for the injured.”
He also posted a number of Facebook statuses while the storm raged.
The hurricane was upgraded to a category five storm before making landfall in Dominica, with winds of up to 155mph, according to the National Hurricane Centre (NHC).
It was downgraded to a category four hurricane early on Tuesday, but the NHC said it still remained an “extremely dangerous hurricane” as it approached Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.
Those countries are still reeling from Hurricane Irma.
If Maria retains its strength, it would be the most powerful hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in 85 years, since a Category 4 storm swept the U.S. island territory in 1932, NHC spokesman Dennis Feltgen said, according to Reuters.
The last major hurricane to strike Puerto Rico directly was Georges, which made landfall there as a Category 3 storm in 1998, he said.
The governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rossello, urged island residents on Twitter to brace for the storm’s arrival, saying, “It is time to seek refuge with a family member, friend or head to a state shelter.”
US Virgin Islands Governor Kenneth Mapp said Maria was due to pass within 10 miles of the island of St. Croix, which escaped the brunt of Irma’s clout on Sept. 6. The island is home to about 55,000 year-round residents, roughly half of the entire territory’s population.
Mapp warned that hurricane-force winds were expected to howl across St. Croix for eight hours, accompanied by up to a foot and a half (46 cm) of rain that would be followed by nearly a week of additional showers.
He urged St. Croix residents take cover in one of three emergency shelters on the island. For those choosing to stay in their homes during the storm, he said, they might consider climbing into a second-floor bathtub and pulling a mattress over them to stay safe in the event they lose their roofs.