The Category 3 system is expected to strengthen significantly in the next 48 hours
"We're just waiting for daybreak to do an assessment of the damage", Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit told CNN on Tuesday morning.
The islands that could be struck by the hurricane are now recovering from hurricane Irma, which was one of the most powerful storms in history.
Hurricane Maria is a very risky Category 5 storm as it moves farther away from Florida and out into the Atlantic Ocean, according to spaghetti models by GFS and the European model. "Indeed, mind boggling. My focus now is in rescuing the trapped and securing medical assistance for the injured", Skerrit said, before calling on the global community to come to his country's aid.
"We will need help, my friend, we will need help of all kinds", the prime minister said. He said "we have lost all what money can buy and replace" and said he feared landslides likely triggered by persistent rains may have resulted in deaths.
The NHC added: "A risky storm surge accompanied by large and destructive waves will raise water levels by as much as 7ft to 11ft feet above normal tide levels in the hurricane warning area near where the centre of Maria moves across the Leeward Islands and the British Virgin Islands".
Puerto Rico's Governor Ricardo Rossello has declared a state of emergency ahead of the landfall expected on Wednesday.
"Maria is likely to strengthen significantly, and is expected to be at major hurricane intensity when it affects portions of the Leeward Islands over the next few days, bringing unsafe wind, storm surge, and rainfall hazards", the National Hurricane Center said in a forecast.
The NHC's 2 a.m. advisory said Maria's eye was some 45 miles west-northwest of Dominica and was moving west-northwest at 9 mph.
Maria poses a significant and potentially catastrophic threat to Puerto Rico over the next 24 to 48 hours. The category five hurricane left more than 35 people dead and hundreds more injured.
Hurricane Maria, an "extremely dangerous" storm, regained Category 5 strength as it churned about 205 miles (325 km) southeast of St. Croix in the Virgin Islands, with maximum sustained winds of 160 mph (260 km/h), the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said early on Tuesday.
"Initial reports are of widespread devastation".
Even though the cruise port in St. Thomas has already been out of action for regular cruise ship calls it is closed anyway in preparation for Hurricane Maria.
Maria is the second hurricane to reach Category 5 status this season.
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