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Maria batters Dominica

Hurricane Maria intensified into a dangerous Category 5 storm and pounded the little island of Dominica as it surged into the eastern Caribbean on Monday night, and forecasters warned it might become even stronger.

The storm was following a path that could take it on Tuesday near many of the islands already wrecked by Hurricane Irma and then head toward a possible direct strike on Puerto Rico on Wednesday.

There were no immediate reports from Dominica after the eye wall moved ashore, but earlier zinc roofs blew off homes as the outer edge of the storm began whipping the island.

Dominica authorities had closed schools and government offices and urged people to move from dangerous areas to shelters.

"We should treat the approaching hurricane very, very seriously," Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit warned. "This much water in Dominica is dangerous."

Officials on nearby Guadeloupe said the French island would experience extremely heavy flooding and warned that many communities could be submerged overnight.

In Martinique, authorities ordered people to remain indoors and said they should prepare for cuts to power and water. Schools and non-essential public services were closed.

With Puerto Rico appearing destined for a hit, officials in the U.S. territory warned residents of wooden or otherwise flimsy homes to find safe shelter.

"You have to evacuate. Otherwise you're going to die," said Hector Pesquera, Puerto Rico's public safety commissioner. "I don't know how to make this any clearer."



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