The powerful Hurricane Maria pummelled Puerto Rico on Wednesday while dealing a severe blow to the island's power grid. The center of the storm came ashore near Yabucoa in southeastern Puerto Rico around 6:15 am (1015 GMT), the forecasters said. Further, the severity of the storm was such that all electricity was knocked out, while towns were deluged with flashfloods and mudslides.
"The wind sounds like a woman screaming at the top of her lungs!" photographer and storm chaser Mike Theiss posted on Twitter. Puerto Rico had been recently ravaged by Hurricane Irma when three people were killed whereas 70 percent of households faced massive power cut.
Residents of the island who were already reeling under aftershocks from Hurricane Irma, were in for further trouble as the whole island was plunged in darkness by Wednesday evening. Puerto Rico's governor Ricardo Rosello said that restoring power all over the island may take months.
He further said that residents should be ready to brace for "the worst storm of the last century", while opening 500 shelters that can accommodate 67,000 people.
"Puerto Rico being hit hard by new monster Hurricane," tweeted US President Donald Trump."Be careful, our hearts are with you -- will be there to help!"
The US and British Virgin Islands -- still struggling to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Irma -- are also on alert, along with the Turks and Caicos Islands and parts of the Dominican Republic.
Maria has already torn through several Caribbean islands, leaving two people dead in the French territory of Guadeloupe and causing major damage on the independent island of Dominica. Governor Rossello tweeted that more than 11,000 people had sought shelter already, with nearly 600 pets in tow.
In the US Virgin Islands, locals reported horizontal rain and trees swirling in the wind.In Guadeloupe, one person was killed by a falling tree as Maria hit, while another died on the seafront.
On neighbouring Dominica, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit posted on Facebook that there were initial reports of "widespread devastation". Communications to the tropical island of 73,000 people have been cut, and its airports and ports have been closed.
With PTI inputs