Death Toll Rises in Caribbean as Hurricane Maria Pummels Through Islands

One of the strongest hurricanes to hit Puerto Rico in more than 80 years has left nine people dead in its wake across the Caribbean island.

While there was no immediate word of any deaths or serious injuries, TIME reports that the “potentially catastrophic” storm which blew ashore Wednesday morning in the southeast coastal town of Yabucoa, claimed nine lives.

TIME goes on to report that the overall death toll after the storm made landfall increased to a total of nine, including two on the French island of Guadeloupe.

An adviser to Dominican Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit revealed there had been seven confirmed deaths in the Dominica due to Maria, but no details about how the deaths occurred were given. He said there had also been a “tremendous loss of housing and public buildings.”

According to the U.S. National Hurricane Center, thousands of Puerto Ricans are living in shelters as Maria made landfall as near Yabucoa.

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As of 5 p.m. EST, Maria has been downgraded to a Category 2 storm, but is projected to ramp back up by Thursday. This reclassification from the National Hurricane Center means Maria is no longer a “major hurricane,” but still a major threat to the Caribbean, with a re-escalation to its “major” status Thursday morning.

The new general hurricane status means it will have winds ranging from 74 mph to 110 mph. Maria is currently near the Dominican Republic and tracking northwest.