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Maria: Strongest storm in 90 years hits Puerto Rico

Staff Writer |
Hurricane Maria has slammed into Puerto Rico as the strongest storm to hit the U.S. territory in nearly 90 years, downing power to most of the island, flooding some areas and ripping windows out in the capital San Juan.

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Maria, the second major hurricane to roar through the Caribbean this month, made landfall near Yabucoa, on the southwest of the island of 3.4 million people. Thousands of people were seeking safety in shelters.

Carrying winds of 220km/h, driving high storm surges and drenching rains, Maria's eye was located about 40km west of San Juan shortly before 11am local time, the US National Hurricane Center said.

Broken windows, mangled awnings and gutters dangled haphazardly from buildings in San Juan or were ripped off entirely. Toilets bubbled noisily and belched foul air as the hurricane rumbled through the city's water and sewage lines.

Up to 90 per cent of the island was without electricity, El Nuevo Dia newspaper quoted Governor Ricardo Rossello as saying.

In the southcoast city of Guayama, west of where Maria blew ashore, storm waters turned streets into fast-running rivers carrying wind-downed debris.

"God is with us; we are stronger than any hurricane," Rossello said in a Twitter message on Wednesday. "Together we will rise again."

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