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The Latest: Trump speaks with Puerto Rico governor
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The Latest: Trump speaks with Puerto Rico governor

The Latest: Trump speaks with Puerto Rico governor
Photo Credit: AP Photo/Tatiana Fernandez
A gift shop damaged in the crossing of Hurricane Maria is shown on Cofrecito Beach, Bavaro, Dominican Republic, Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017. Rain from the storm will continue in the Dominican Republic for the next two days according to meteorologists. (AP Photo/Tatiana Fernandez)

The Latest: Trump speaks with Puerto Rico governor

The Latest on Hurricane Maria (all times local):

9:55 p.m.

The White House says President Donald Trump has spoken with the governors of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Trump said earlier Thursday that Puerto Rico was "absolutely obliterated" and the Virgin Islands were "flattened" by recent hurricanes Irma and Maria.

The entire island of Puerto Rico was left without power after Maria knocked out its already weakened electrical grid.

Trump said FEMA and other emergency responders are helping both U.S. territories begin the recovery process.

He says he'll visit Puerto Rico.

___

8:05 p.m.

Hurricane Maria has continued to strengthen slightly as its large eye approaches the Turks and Caicos Islands and the southeastern Bahamas.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami says data from reconnaissance aircraft showed maximum sustained wind speed increasing Thursday to 125 mph (200 kph), up slightly from 120 mph (195 kph). It remains a Category 3 hurricane.

Hurricane conditions are expected to begin in the Turks and Caicos Islands and the southeastern Bahamas late Thursday or early Friday.

Tropical storm conditions are possible in the central Bahamas beginning late Friday.

___

6:55 p.m.

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, whose family is from Puerto Rico, says she hasn't yet heard from half her family after Hurricane Maria walloped the island.

Sotomayor, the high court's first Hispanic justice, was speaking Thursday at an event at the Newseum in Washington. She said Puerto Rico "is suffering a great tragedy right now."

Sotomayor says that she and her family in the United States are "exceedingly concerned." She asked for the crowd's prayers for Puerto Rico but also the other islands, Texas and Florida that have been recently impacted by hurricanes.

Sotomayor's parents immigrated to the United States from Puerto Rico before she was born. Sotomayor grew up in New York.

___

6:15 p.m.

Authorities say Hurricane Maria's winds ripped palm frond roofs away from trees and caused some other damage to restaurants in the Bavaro beach resorts on Dominican Republic's east coast.

Restaurant workers on Thurssay sought to remove the fallen trees from rooftops and clear away debris left by the storm in the popular beach resort populated by eateries and shops. But Ernesto Veloz, president of the hotel association in the Bavaro-Punta Cana tourist area, said he was relieved damage wasn't any worse.

"Thanks to God, we didn't get the worst" of it, he said by phone.

Earlier, the hotel association in the Dominican Republic reported Hurricane Maria didn't inflict any serious damage to the county's tourism infrastructure.

___

6 p.m.

A day after Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico, flooding towns, crushing homes and killing at least two people, millions of people on the island faced the dispiriting prospect of weeks and perhaps months without electricity.

The storm knocked out the entire grid across the U.S. territory of 3.4 million, leaving many without power to light their homes, cook, pump water or run fans, air conditioners or refrigerators. Now many are hunting for gas canisters for cooking, collecting rainwater or steeling themselves mentally for the hardships to come in the tropical heat. Some are even contemplating leaving the island.

"You cannot live here without power," said Hector Llanos, a 78-year-old retired New York police officer who planned to go back to the U.S. mainland on Saturday to live there temporarily.

Like many Puerto Ricans, Llanos does not have a generator or gas stove. "The only thing I have is a flashlight," he said, shaking his head.

___

2:35 p.m.

The U.S. Coast Guard says a woman and two children were rescued from a boat that went missing off Puerto Rico during Hurricane Maria, but a man died aboard the vessel.

The Coast Guard in Miami said in a statement that a British Royal Navy helicopter hoisted three people Thursday from the capsized vessel. It had sent a distress call Wednesday saying it was disabled and adrift in seas with 20-foot (6-meter) waves and 100 mph (160 kph) winds near Vieques, Puerto Rico.

The Coast Guard says the dead man's body was not retrieved and that the boat had capsized.

The search included an HC-130 search plane, a fast response cutter, the USS Kearsage amphibious assault ship and Navy helicopters.

The names of those on the vessel were not released.

___

1:50 p.m.

Hurricane Maria has strengthened slightly as it nears the Turks and Caicos Islands and the southeastern Bahamas.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami says data from reconnaissance aircraft showed maximum sustained wind speed increasing Thursday to 120 mph (195 kph), up slightly from 115 mph (185 kph). It remains a Category 3 hurricane.

Hurricane conditions are expected to begin in the Turks and Caicos Islands and the southeastern Bahamas late Thursday or early Friday.

Tropical storm conditions are possible in the central Bahamas beginning late Friday.

___

1:20 p.m.

New York City is sending emergency responders to Puerto Rico and is encouraging other city workers to volunteer with island recovery efforts.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Puerto Rico-born New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito discussed the Hurricane Maria efforts on Thursday. City workers will have to take vacation days or unpaid leave, but de Blasio says the city is trying to get them free transportation and places to stay. The city also is helping with fundraising.

Nine New York City police and firefighters stayed in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Irma. Another 27 emergency responders will fly there when conditions allow. Emergency management personnel also will be deployed.

An emotional Mark-Viverito says her family is safe but that other City Council members still haven't heard from their loved ones.

___

1:10 p.m.

The search is on for a boat that went missing off Puerto Rico during Hurricane Maria with two adults and two children aboard.

The U.S. Coast Guard in Miami said in a news release that the vessel named Ferrel sent a distress call Wednesday saying it was disabled and adrift in seas with 20-foot (6-meter) waves and 100 mph (160 kph) winds. Communications were lost with the boat near Vieques, Puerto Rico.

The Coast Guard, U.S. Navy and British Royal Navy are all assisting in the search Thursday. It includes an HC-130 search plane, a fast response cutter, the USS Kearsage amphibious assault ship and Navy helicopters.

The names of those on the vessel were not released.

___

12:55 p.m.

The prime minister of Dominica says more than 15 people are dead and 20 remain missing after Hurricane Maria's direct hit on the Caribbean island.

Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit cried as he spoke to a reporter on the nearby island of Antigua.

He said more than 15 people died due to the storm and that it was a miracle that the death toll was not in the hundreds.

The center of the Category 4 storm hit Dominica with massive force late Monday night and early Tuesday, destroying hundreds of homes and cutting off the mountainous island's communication systems and shutting its airport.

Skerrit says Dominica "is going to need all the help the world has to offer."

___

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.

___

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.

___

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.

___

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).

___

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.

___

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.

___

This story corrects day of Coast Guard rescue to Thursday, not Wednesday.

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