The Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico are braced for Hurricane Maria to hit after the second maximum-strength Atlantic storm of the season battered the island of Dominica.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office reported “widespread damage” to Dominica forcing the airport to close.
Hurricane Maria weakened briefly to a category four storm but picked up again with winds of 175mph.
It is forecast to bring “devastating to catastrophic impacts,” according to the US National Weather Service.
Tropical storm warnings were issued for Antigua and Barbuda, Saba, St Eustatius, St Martin, Anguilla and Martinique.
Flooding, mudslides and power outages have been reported in parts of St Lucia while Guadeloupe has also suffered floods.
A storm surge – rising seawater coming in from the coast – is expected to bring “life-threatening” swells of up to 9 foot above ground in the US and British Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, US National Hurricane Centre forecasters warned.
Heavy rainfall of around 25 inches was expected near Puerto Rico and up to 20 inches in the US and British Virgin Islands.
Airlines and cruise companies face continued disruption to schedules as the latest storm follows a similar path across the Caribbean as Hurricane Irma.
British Airways said: “Hurricane Maria is heading towards several destinations in the Caribbean. We are in regular contact with our teams in the region and airport partners as the storm approaches and are keeping our schedule under review.”
Delta Air Lines was continuing to fly from New York and Atlanta to San Juan in Puerto Rico yesterday and laid on three extra flights to help with evacuation efforts.
But Delta flights to St Thomas in the US Virgin Islands remain cancelled due to the approaching storm and infrastructure constraints caused by Hurricane Irma.
“Our teams throughout the Caribbean are working diligently to ensure a safe operation for our customers ahead of Hurricane Maria,” said Luciano Macagno, the airline’s managing director for Latin America and the Caribbean.
Royal Caribbean International said: “We are closely monitoring Hurricane Maria’s forecast track, and have modified both Adventure of the Seas and Allure of the Seas current itineraries to keep our guests and crew well out of the path of the storm.
“Our goal remains to provide notice of any future itinerary changes within a minimum of 48 hours prior to departure.”
Looking forward, the line added: “Given Hurricane Irma’s impact to St Maarten, St Thomas and Key West, we will be working on alternative ports for future sailings until these islands have fully recovered.
“As the recovery effort remains fluid and each island is working diligently to get back to normal operations, we will continue to communicate any port changes approximately four weeks prior to departure.”
Carnival Cruise Line said: “We are currently monitoring the track of Hurricane Maria in the Atlantic and will inform our guests who are sailing within the next two weeks of any impact to their Caribbean itineraries once the storm has passed.”
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