WASHINGTON – The death toll from Hurricane Maria in the Caribbean has reached 30 and is expected to rise, authorities said on Friday.
Puerto Rican residents could be without power for as long as six months, officials say, after Hurricane Maria pounded the island with battering winds that downed power lines and torrential rains left many streets looking like rivers.
Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello called Maria “the most devastating storm of the century.”
He joined National Guard troops who used boats to navigate the flooded streeets and rescue residents trapped in their homes.
The Category 4 hurricane, with sustained winds as high as 155 mph, was the strongest hurricane to hit the U.S. territory in over 80 years. Maria pummeled Puerto Rico through Wednesday night, causing at least one death. The 3.4 million residents were still reeling from being hit hard by Hurricane Irma less than two weeks ago.
The mayor of the capital, Carmen Yulin Cruz, said the devastation is like nothing she has ever seen, telling MSNBC “The San Juan that we knew yesterday is no longer there.”
All the electricity in Puerto Rico has been knocked out and she said it could take four to six months for it to be restored.
The storms could not have come at a worse time for the commonwealth, which filed for bankruptcy in May after years of economic decline. After a series of defaults, Puerto Rico has not been able to raise money in the capital markets. Its aging government-owned electric utility is operating under court protection from creditors.
President Donald Trump issued a Major Disaster Declaration for Puerto Rico and ordered federal assistance of grants and loans to supplement local and commonwealth recovery efforts. Federal funding also is available to the commonwealth as well as eligible local governments and private nonprofit organizations for emergency work in all 78 municipalities.
The president said he plans to visit Puerto Rico.
A British Royal Naval helicopter rescued a woman and her two sons on Thursday after their boat capsized after the engine went out several hours earlier. A man on the boat died, the Coast Guard said, and his body was strapped on the boat.