'Extremely dangerous' Maria moves toward VI, Puerto Rico as Cat 5 storm

Hurricane Maria strengthens

At 2:20 a.m. Tuesday, Skerrit posted that as soon as an all-clear is given, rescue workers would begin the search for those injured and trapped in rubble.

Late on Monday evening, ahead of the storm's arrival, he warned "non-essential vehicles must keep off roads from 6pm tonight".

Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skeritt said on his Facebook page that "initial reports are of widespread devastation" and said he feared there would be deaths due to rain-fed landslides.

After Dominica, Maria will move towards Puerto Rico as an "extremely unsafe major hurricane, and a warning has been issued", CNN quoted the NHC as saying.

Maria is the 13th named storm of the season and the fourth major hurricane to form in the Atlantic this year. It was moving west-northwest at about 9 miles per hour, threatening places like the U.S. Virgin Islands, St. Kitts and Antigua with heavy rains, unsafe storm surges and life-threatening surf conditions.

In the Caribbean, a region still recovering from the effects of Hurricane Irma, island nations are now watching the powerful Category 5 Hurricane Maria as it pushes toward Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

A Marine Corps MV-22B Osprey takes off from the USS Kearsarge aircraft carrier as USA military continues to evacuate personnel from the U.S. Virgin Islands in advance of Hurricane Maria, in the Caribbean Sea near the islands.

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Further north, forecasters were also tracking Category 1 Hurricane Jose, which was carrying 120 kph (75-mph) winds and was located about 430 km (265 miles) east-southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.

Brennan said he was "very concerned" of the potentially Category 4 or 5 winds moving through the area, as well as storm surges and extreme rainfall.

"The storm compounds already existing problems on the island", said Deepak Lamba-Nieves, research director at the Center for a New Economy in San Juan.

Maria is expected to move on towards Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands in the next 24 hours.

However, Puerto Rico's official had a more intense warning for his residents. "This is an event that will be damaging to the infrastructure, that will be catastrophic, and our main focus - our only focus right now - should be to make sure we save lives".

Hurricanes are highly unlikely to directly hit Colombia because of its location.

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