The Latest: Maria strengthens back to Cat 3 after ravaging Puerto Rico

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — The Latest on Hurricane Maria (all times local):

11:35 a.m.

People in Puerto Rico are slowly digging out from Hurricane Maria.

Many streets are blocked by downed trees and power lines. In some places, the roads are impassable because of floodwaters and people are getting around on rafts and kayaks. But there are also signs of life.

People are removing their storm shutters. Lines are forming at the few restaurants that have generator power. They are a mix of tourist and locals as well as families with small children. Crews are visible throughout the island clearing debris and assessing damage.

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11:15 a.m.

Forecasters say a severe flood threat is continuing across Puerto Rico as Hurricane Maria’s outer rain bands pelt the island.

Senior Hurricane Specialist Mike Brennan at the U.S. National Hurricane Center says rains are expected to dump at least 4-8 inches (10-20 centimeters) of additional rain and up to 35 inches (85 centimeters) in isolated spots on the island.

“We’re still seeing heavy rainfall occurring over Puerto Rico and that will exacerbate the flash flooding,” Brennan said Thursday via social media from the Miami-based center.

He warned Puerto Rico residents who are venturing out after the storm to avoid areas near already flood-swollen rivers and not to attempt to cross flooded highways and roads on foot or in vehicles because of the threat to personal safety.

Forecasters say the ongoing rains also raise the risk of life-threatening mudslides.

10:25 a.m.

President Donald Trump is providing an update on the U.S. response to a series of massive hurricanes.

The president says in a meeting with the president of Ukraine that Texas and Florida are emerging from the hurricanes but says Puerto Rico was “absolutely obliterated” and the U.S. Virgin Islands were “flattened.”

Trump says Puerto Rico is in “tough shape” after it was ravaged by Hurricane Maria and notes that the “electrical grid is destroyed.” The storm knocked out electricity to the entire island.

But he says FEMA and other emergency responders are helping the islands and the southern U.S. states recover.

The president has told reporters that he will visit Puerto Rico.

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9:35 a.m.

Dominica Tourism Minister Robert Tonge (TUNG) is describing his badly damaged country three days after Hurricane Maria made landfall in the eastern Caribbean island.

An update from Tonge says the capital of Roseau still has severe flooding and there’s heavy damage throughout the city.

The hospital and a community center both lost roofs. One of two airports serving the country is inoperable while the other is expected to be operational in the coming days. An estimated 95 percent of the roofs were blown off in some towns, including Mahaut and Portsmouth.

There are at least nine communities that no one has any information about because they’re cut off and most communications are down in the country.

Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit is expected to speak from the island of Antigua later Thursday.

A number of people remain missing.

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9:35 a.m.

The president of the hotel association in the Dominican Republic says Hurricane Maria didn’t do any damage to the county’s tourism infrastructure.

Joel Santos says that assessment includes Punta Cana on the eastern tip of the country. That was the area closest to the eye when the storm passed on its way toward the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands to the north. The government evacuated more than 4,000 tourists to the capital of Santo Domingo.

The meteorological service said Thursday that rain from the storm will continue in the Dominican Republic for the next two days for a total of around 19 inches (50 centimeters).

8:15 a.m.

President Donald Trump has approved a disaster declaration for Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria slammed into the U.S. territory.

The declaration makes federal funding available to Puerto Ricans affected by the storm, which has knocked out power across the entire island Wednesday and caused flooding and landslides.

Maria has killed at least 10 people across the Caribbean.

The Category 3 hurricane has maximum sustained winds near 115 mph (185 kph). It’s centered about 95 miles (150 kilometers) north-northwest of Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, and is moving northwest at 9 mph (15 kph).

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5 a.m.

Hurricane Maria is lashing the northeastern Dominican Republic early Thursday and is expected to pass near the Turks and Caicos later in the day.

The Category 3 storm’s maximum sustained winds are near 115 mph (185 kph) and the U.S. National Hurricane Center says some strengthening is possible during the next day or so.

Maria, which has killed at least 10 people across the Caribbean, is centered about 70 miles (110 kilometers) north of Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, and is moving northwest near 9 mph (15 kph).

Meanwhile, Puerto Ricans are rebuilding after the hurricane slammed into the U.S. territory Wednesday, crushing concrete balconies and paralyzing the island with landslides, flooding and downed trees.

#Maria #SanJuan

A post shared by Sebastián Pérez (@sebastianperezphoto) on

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3:30 a.m.

Tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans stunned by a hurricane that crushed concrete balconies and paralyzed the island with landslides, flooding and downed trees vowed to slowly rebuild amid an economic crisis as rescue crews fanned out across the U.S. territory.

The extent of the damage is unknown given that dozens of municipalities remain isolated and without communication after Maria hit the island Wednesday morning as a Category 4 storm with 155 mph winds, the strongest hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in over 80 years.

Uprooted trees and widespread flooding blocked many highways and streets across the island, creating a maze that forced drivers to go against traffic and past police cars that used loudspeakers to warn people they must respect a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew imposed by the governor to ensure everyone’s safety.

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