Hurricane Maria lashed the Turks and Caicos Islands on Friday and was blamed for fresh flooding on Puerto Rico, where it had already destroyed homes and knocked out power during its rampage through the Caribbean.
The storm killed at least 25 people on the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands, according to government officials and local news media accounts.
U.S. weather forecasters further warned that a dam on the Guajataca river in northwestern Puerto Rico was failing, causing flash flooding in the area.
“This is an EXTREMELY DANGEROUS SITUATION,” the National Weather Service’s San Juan office said on Twitter. “Buses are currently evacuating people from the area as quickly as they can.”
Maria was the second major hurricane to hit the Caribbean this month and the strongest storm to hit the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico in nearly 90 years. It completely knocked out the island’s power, and several rivers hit record flood levels.
Puerto Rico officials said on Friday that six people had been confirmed killed by the storm: Three died in landslides in Utuadno, in the island’s mountainous center; two drowned in flooding in Toa Baja, west of San Juan, and one died in Bayamon, also near San Juan, after being stuck by a panel.
Earlier news media reports had the death toll on the island as high as 15.
“We know of other potential fatalities through unofficial channels that we haven’t been able to confirm,” said Hector Pesquera, the government’s secretary of public safety.
In San Juan, people worked to clear debris from the streets on Friday and some began to reopen businesses, though they wondered how long they could operate without power and with limited inventory.
“There’s no water, no power, nothing,” said Rogelio Jimenez, a 34-year-old pizzeria worker.
“We’re opening today,” he said, estimating that the restaurant had enough supplies to last a week. “If there’s nothing after that, we’ll close.”
Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew through Saturday for the island’s 3.4 million people.