The region's mightiest hurricane in a decade lashed Puerto Rico Monday after battering the U.S. Virgin Islands and other tourist havens, leaving at least nine people dead and thousands homeless.
The National Weather Service said Hurricane Hugo hit the eastern tip of Puerto Rico and skirted the northern coast, packing 125 mph winds and 6-foot seas. Forecasters expected up to 15 inches of rain and flooding and mudslides all over the island."We're getting ravaged," said ham radio operator Fernando Garcia in San Juan. "We're getting all kinds of winds, rain - very, very, very hard."
There were other reports of heavy damage, some looting, no water and no electricity in Puerto Rico. The National Hurricane Center in Coral Gables, Fla., put Hugo's center about 20 miles north of San Juan at noon Monday.
On Sunday, Hugo plowed west-northwest through the eastern Caribbean, slamming into the U.S. Virgin Islands with 100 mph winds and rains that caused heavy flooding.
Five people were reported killed, 80 injured and more than 10,000 homeless on the French island of Guadeloupe, relief officials said.
Corrugated steel roofs were torn off, power lines ripped free and crops were destroyed. The airport's control tower was knocked out of commission, permitting only visual landings by relief planes.
Two people were killed in Antigua and one in Montserrat, according to Beacon Radio in Anguilla. Ham radio operators reported at least five deaths in Montserrat, but there was no official confirmation.
Nearly all of Montserrat's 12,000 residents were homeless, and schools, hospitals and the police department all suffered serious damage, said ham radio operator Stuart Haimes of Queens, N.Y.
Police said a man was electrocuted in Puerto Rico when he touched a power line while removing a TV antenna from his roof in preparing for the storm.
On St. Croix, a ham radio operator said winds tore the roofs off 75 percent of the homes. Officials said stores in the town of Christiansted were heavily damaged.
Storm watches were in effect Monday for parts of the Dominican Republic, and a hurricane warning was issued for the southern Bahamas, including the Turks and Caicos islands.
The National Guard had been mobilized in both the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
Meteorologist Jesse Moore at the National Hurricane Center said it was too early to tell whether Hugo would strike the U.S. mainland. He said the storm was expected to be off the southeastern Bahamas by Wednesday and "after that, it's anybody's guess."