SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Hurricane Maria restrengthened to a major storm early Thursday after slamming into Puerto Rico and is expected to hit Turks and Caicos Thursday evening.
Rescuers fanned out to reach stunned victims after the storm ravaged Puerto Rico, knocking out electricity to the entire island and triggering landslides and floods.
The extent of the damage is unknown given that dozens of municipalities remained isolated and without communication after Maria hit the island Wednesday morning as a Category 4 storm with 155 mph winds, the strongest hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in over 80 years.
Uprooted trees and widespread flooding blocked many highways and streets across the island, creating a maze that forced drivers to go against traffic and past police cars that used loudspeakers to warn people they must respect a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew imposed by the governor to ensure everyone’s safety.
“This is going to be a historic event for Puerto Rico,” said Abner Gomez, the island’s emergency management director.
President Donald Trump approved a federal disaster declaration for Puerto Rico.
Previously a Category 5 with 175 mph (281 kph) winds, Maria hit Puerto Rico as the third-strongest storm to make landfall in the U.S., based on its central pressure. It was even stronger than Hurricane Irma that storm roared into the Florida Keys earlier this month.