SANTO DOMINGO--Dominican Republic closed most of its ports ahead of Hurricane Maria, but the country's 34,000-barrel-per-day refinery was still running, the government said on Wednesday.
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico- Hurricane Maria caused "mind boggling damage," ripping off roofs across the small island of Dominica before pushing on toward the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico on Tuesday as the second top-strength storm to lash the Caribbean this month.
Maria regained rare Category 5 strength, the top end of the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, as it churned about 170 miles (275 km) southeast of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, U.S. forecasters said.
It was carrying maximum sustained winds of 160 miles per hour (260 km per hour), the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said, describing Maria as "potentially catastrophic."
The storm plowed through Dominica, a mountainous island nation of 72,000 people in the eastern Caribbean, late on Monday causing devastation that Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit described as "mind boggling."
"The winds have swept away the roofs of almost every person I have spoken to or otherwise made contact with," Skerrit said in a Facebook post, describing an avalanche of torn-away roofs across the country, including that of his own residence.
"My focus now is in rescuing the trapped and securing medical assistance for the injured," he said.
The storm made landfall on Dominica as a Category 5 hurricane with 155-mph (250-kph) winds, the NHC said. Its intensity may fluctuate over the next day or two, but Maria is expected to remain a category 4 or 5 storm, the Miami-based center said.
The region was hit just days ago by Hurricane Irma, which ranked as one of the most powerful Atlantic storms on record and devasted several small islands, including Barbuda and the U.S. Virgin Islands of St. Thomas and St. John, and causing heavy damage in Cuba and Florida. Irma killed at least 84 people in the Caribbean and the U.S. mainland.
Maria was on track to move over the northeastern Caribbean Sea and approach the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico by Tuesday night or early on Wednesday.
The governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Kenneth Mapp, said Maria would pass within 10 miles (16 km) of the island of St. Croix, which escaped the brunt of Irma on Sept. 6. The island is home to about 55,000 year-round residents, roughly half of the entire territory's population.
At a news conference on Monday evening, Mapp warned of drenching rains. He predicted that most islanders would be without electricity for weeks, and "some folks will not get power in months." A curfew would be imposed starting at 10 a.m. local time on Tuesday, he said.
SHELTER IN A BATHTUB
Mapp urged St. Croix residents to 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.
Forecasts predict Maria will be the worst storm to hit St. Croix since Hugo, a Category 4 storm, in 1989.
The territory's two other main islands, St. Thomas and St. John, which lie to the north of St. Croix, sustained widespread and heavy damage from Irma.
Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory with about 3.4 million inhabitants, avoided a direct hit two weeks ago from Irma as that storm skirted north, although it still saw damage.
Puerto Rico's governor, Ricardo Rossello, urged residents on Twitter to brace for Maria's arrival, saying, "It is time to seek refuge with a family member, friend or head to a state shelter."
Residents rushed to buy plywood, water and other supplies.
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 territory in 1932, Hurricane Center spokesman Dennis Feltgen said. 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 French island of Martinique escaped Maria largely unscathed but a communications blackout with fellow French territory Guadeloupe meant it would be several more hours before damage there could be assessed, Jacques Witkowski, France's head of civil protection, told reporters in Paris.
In Saint Martin, where nearly a third of all buildings on the Dutch half of the island were destroyed by Irma, the airport and harbor were closed ahead of Maria's approach.
"Saint Martin is the big concern because a lot of homes lost their roofs. They are vulnerable to a lot of rain, which will only make the situation worse," said Paul Middelberg, a spokesman for the Dutch navy.
Maria was expected to whip up storm surges - seawater driven ashore by wind - of up to 9 feet (2.7 m) above normal tide levels, the NHC said. Parts of Puerto Rico could see up to 25 inches (64 cm) of rain, it said.
Maria is the 13th named Atlantic storm of the year, the seventh hurricane so far this season and the fourth major hurricane - defined as Category 3 or higher - following Harvey, Irma and Jose, the NHC said. Those numbers are all above average for a typical season, which is only about half over for 2017.
ST. KITTS--Most of the Caribbean nations have all moved up the ranking in the 2nd Edition of the Henley & Partners – Kochenov Quality of Nationality Index (QNI) which was published in London on Wednesday. The QNI is the first index of its kind to objectively rank the value of every nationality of the world in terms of legal status in which to develop your talents and business.
NWS National Hurricane Center Miami FL AL142017
1100 AM AST Sat Sep 16 2017
...DEPRESSION STRENGTHENS INTO TROPICAL STORM LEE...
SUMMARY OF 1100 AM AST...1500 UTC...INFORMATION
ABOUT 655 MI...1055 KM WSW OF THE CABO VERDE ISLANDS
MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS...40 MPH...65 KM/H
PRESENT MOVEMENT...W OR 265 DEGREES AT 12 MPH...19 KM/H
MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE...1007 MB...29.74 INCHES
WATCHES AND WARNINGS
There are no coastal watches or warnings in effect.
DISCUSSION AND 48-HOUR OUTLOOK
At 1100 AM AST (1500 UTC), the center of Tropical Storm Lee was located near latitude 12.5 North, longitude 33.1 West. Lee is moving toward the west near 12 mph (19 km/h). A westward or west-northwestward motion with a decrease in forward speed is expected during the next couple of days.
Maximum sustained winds have increased to are near 40 mph (65 km/h) with higher gusts. Little change in strength is forecast during the next 48 hours.
Tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 70 miles (110 km) from the center.
The estimated minimum central pressure is 1007 mb (29.74 inches).
HAZARDS AFFECTING LAND
ST. KITTS--The recovery efforts in St. Kitts and Nevis following the passage of Hurricane Irma will receive much needed financial support from a payout by the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility segregated portfolio company (CCRIF SPC).
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados--Having battered a number of Caribbean countries and the US state of Florida, leaving behind in the region nearly thirty deaths and hundreds of millions of dollars in damage, Hurricane Irma is likely to inflict some more pain of a different kind on the region.
BRUSSELS, Belgium--The European Union (EU) says more help is on the way for the islands where Hurricane Irma left a trail of death and devastation.
EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, Christos Stylianides says it is the body’s “moral duty to help those in need whose lives and homes are being destroyed or severely threatened.”
TORTOLA, British Virgin Islands--Caribbean Community Caricom Chairman, Grenadian Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell has declared that the regional grouping will undertake a major initiative to support the reconstruction efforts in the islands battered by Hurricane Irma.
WASHINGTON, United States--A senior official from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has all but poured cold water on suggestions that Barbuda should be granted temporary relief from paying its debt to the Washington-based financial body.
GEORGETOWN, Guyana--Guyanese investigators are expected to hand in their report on the discovery of a Brazilian aircraft on an illegal airstrip in North Rupununi last month.
KINGSTON, Jamaica--The Jamaica Bauxite Institute (JBI) is to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) this week with Canadian-based Timeless Herbal Care (THC) for greenhouse cultivation of cannabis on mined-out bauxite lands for medical use.
The signing of the MOU, which was expected last week Thursday at the JBI, was postponed until this Wednesday to accommodate Transport and Mining Minister Mike Henry’s involvement.
PARAMARIBO--Suriname’s National Assembly on Wednesday night passed the Anti-Corruption law, new legislation that is supposed to help fight dishonest behaviour among civil servants. It comes as the country remains ranked among the list of “very corrupt” countries.
CALIFORNIA, United States--There’s an island in the Lesser Antilles that the head of one of the oldest institutions of higher education in Southern California, US, thinks very highly of.
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad--In an unexpected turn of events former Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) Attorney General (AG) Anand Ramlogan was arrested and taken to police headquarters for interrogation Tuesday morning.
CASTRIES, St. Lucia--A Caribbean Community Caricom prime minister has reiterated the call for developed countries to assist Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in their quest to combat the effects of climate change.
NEW YORK--A US federal judge has thrown out the last class-action lawsuit that had been filed against the United Nations (UN) over the 2010 cholera epidemic in Haiti.
The suit had contended that the UN should take responsibility for the outbreak because the illness was introduced by its peacekeepers from Nepal.
But in her ruling Thursday, Federal District Court in Brooklyn Judge Sandra Townes said the UN could not be sued in US courts. On August 18 last year, a federal appeals court in New Year also upheld that immunity argument in the other class-action lawsuit.
According to the New York Times, the lead lawyer for the Haitians who had filed the lawsuit, James Haggerty, said he was “certainly likely” to appeal.
A study by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had indicated that UN peacekeepers from Nepal, where cholera is endemic, were the likely cause of the outbreak which killed more than 10,000 of the hundreds of thousands of Haitians who were infected.
The disease had not been present in Haiti before the peacekeepers arrived from their homeland where an outbreak was underway. The UN has not legally accepted responsibility for the outbreak, but last year, the then Secretary General Ban Ki-moon delivered a statement at the General Assembly in which he apologized for the UN’s role in the outbreak.
“We simply did not do enough with regard to the cholera outbreak and its spread in Haiti,” he said at the time. ~ Caribbean360 ~
NEGRIL, Jamaica--Ceylon Clayton is trying to revive a sea moss growing project he and friends started a few years ago to supplement their dwindling earnings as fishermen.
GEORGETOWN, Guyana--Guyanese authorities have enlisted the help of the International Police Organization Interpol as investigations deepen into the mysterious landing of a Brazilian-registered aircraft more than a week ago.