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Puerto Ricans braced for Hurricane Dorian just two years after last lethal catastrophe

The latest path also puts Dorian on a trajectory to strike the Atlantic coast of Florida or Georgia by the weekend.

A surf sail shattered by the wind is seen in a private harbor while several ships leave the harbor to protect themselves from the arrival of Hurricane Dorian In Boqueron, Puerto Rico.
A surf sail shattered by the wind is seen in a private harbor while several ships leave the harbor to protect themselves from the arrival of Hurricane Dorian In Boqueron, Puerto Rico.
Image: Ramon Espinosa via PA

HURRICANE DORIAN BORE down on Puerto Rico today as residents braced for a direct hit, the first since the island was ravaged two years ago by Hurricane Maria.

Even before the storm hit, an 80-year-old man was killed in a fall from a ladder while fixing a roof in a San Juan suburb, police said.

US forecasters said Dorian was upgraded to a hurricane from a tropical storm as it moved towards St Thomas in the US Virgin Islands and was expected to make landfall in eastern Puerto Rico later today.

The latest path also puts Dorian on a trajectory to strike the Atlantic coast of Florida or Georgia by the weekend, with few obstacles to weaken it after Puerto Rico. 

Residents of the seaside town of Fajardo, hard hit by Maria in 2017 and now directly in Dorian’s path, scrambled to get ready, fuelling their vehicles and stocking up on basic necessities.

Miguel Melendez joked that the popular tourist area has become a “welcome committee” for hurricanes.

“I went to bed more or less at ease,” the 63-year-old retiree said. ”But my sister woke me at 7.00 am to tell me: ‘Look, this has changed, this is headed to the house again’.”

Carmen Donos exited a Fajardo supermarket this morning with a shopping cart loaded with “my little basic things, and some sweets for when I’m anxious because the lights have gone out”.

The 49-year-old said she lost “absolutely everything” to flooding during Maria.

“I definitely don’t want to go through that again,” she added.

Donald Trump declared a state of emergency in Puerto Rico, which is a US territory, authorising federal assistance even as he lashed out at the island as “one of the most corrupt places on earth”.

“Their political system is broken and their politicians are either Incompetent or Corrupt,” he said on Twitter.

Evacuations were getting underway, starting with those living in Maria-damaged homes that still have blue tarps for roofs, Carlos Acevedo Caballero, head of the local emergency management agency, told reporters.

Some 30,000 houses in Puerto Rico have blue tarps where once they had roofs.

Maria, a Category 4 hurricane, shattered the island’s already shaky power grid, overwhelmed public services and left many residents homeless.

A study accepted as valid by the government, which initially put the death toll at 64, estimated that nearly 3,000 people died as a result of the hurricane and the months of disruption that followed.

Dorian, though far less powerful than Maria, looms as the first major test of the island’s halting recovery.

- © AFP 2019

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