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Hurricane batters Puerto Rico after blasting Dominica

Hurricane Maria hit the US Caribbean territory of Puerto Rico yesterday after devastating the island nation of Dominica.

Maria, which has claimed at least nine lives in the Caribbean, made landfall in the early hours, hitting in the south-eastern coastal town of Yabucoa as a category four storm with winds of 155 mph.

Forecasters said it was expected to lash the island with life-threatening force for 12 to 24 hours.

People calling local radio stations reported that doors were flying off hinges and that a water tank had flown away in the island's southern region. 

Meanwhile, widespread flooding was reported in the capital San Juan, with water running down the interior staircase of one block of flats.

Governor Ricardo Rossello warned of heavy rains and flooding but urged people to have faith, saying: "We are stronger than any hurricane. Together, we will rebuild."

Speaking at a rally in Caracas on Tuesday, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said he had spoken to Dominican Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, who had narrowly escaped with his life when Hurricane Maria tore the roof off his house. He said Mr Skerrit had been saved thanks to prompt action by the police.

"The winds are merciless! We shall survive by the grace of God," Mr Skerrit wrote on Facebook before communications went down.

His adviser Hartley Henry said there had been seven confirmed deaths on the east Caribbean island.

Mr Maduro recalled the late Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro's 1992 prediction that “if the world doesn't change, then the human species will be extinct.”

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