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Dominica's main hospital "took a beating" from Hurricane Maria while buildings serving as shelters had their roofs ripped off, an official said as the first images showing the devastation unleashed by the storm emerged Wednesday.
The Category 5 storm hit the tiny Caribbean island late Monday, cutting off communications and leaving the rest of the world in the dark about the storm’s aftermath.
Video footage shot by the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency shows large swaths of the island suffered heavy damage, with roofs missing and debris scattered for hundreds of yards.
Hartley Henry, a top adviser to Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, posted an update on Facebook Wednesday morning, saying at least 7 people had been killed as a direct result of the hurricane.
Henry said there was a “tremendous loss” of housing and public buildings, while the general hospital also “took a beating."
“Many buildings serving as shelters lost roofs, which means that a very urgent need now is tarpaulins and other roofing materials,” Henry wrote. “Little contact has been made with the outer communities but persons who walked 10 and 15 miles towards the city of Roseau from various outer districts report total destruction of homes, some roadways and crops.”
Around 72,000 people live on the island in the Lesser Antilles. Skerrit had earlier warned that its airports and seaports were likely to be shut for days.
"Dominica had very little time to prepare for this monster"
Henry said authorities fear the death toll will rise as they move into rural areas later Wednesday.
He added the country was “in a daze” with no electricity, running water or cellphone service.
“The urgent needs now are roofing materials for shelters, bedding supplies for hundreds stranded in or outside what's left of their homes," Henry said.
Speaking to the Associated Press from New York, Consul General Barbara Dailey said that by 4 a.m. Tuesday officials had learned that 70 percent of homes had lost their roofs, including her own. Contact with the island has been limited since then.
Flooding was a big concern, given the island's steep mountains, cut through with rivers that rage even after a heavy rain. Dominica was still recovering from Tropical Storm Erika, which killed 30 people and destroyed more than 370 homes in August 2015.
"The situation is really grave," Dailey added.
A U.S.-based spokeswoman for the Rosalie Bay Resort, which is located on the east coast of Dominica, told NBC News they had lost contact with staff late Monday.
The last message from a manager arrived about 45 minutes after Maria made landfall and stated the situation was "really bad and very scary.”
Kyle Edwards, the son of the owners of Kootney Resorts on the northeast of the island, has also not been able to reach his parents since Monday night.
Edwards, who lives in Germany, said Wednesday morning that he hopes they were well-prepared for the storm.
“I am very concerned,” Edwards added.
NBC News meteorologist Bill Karins said that Maria was one of the fastest intensifying hurricanes ever recorded. It blew up from a tropical storm into a major Category 5 hurricane in barely more than a day.
"Dominica had very little time to prepare for this monster,” Karins added. “[It was] the strongest storm of their lifetimes.”
Hurricane Maria lost some of its strength after moving through Dominica and the French territories of Martinique and Guadeloupe Tuesday.
It made landfall in Puerto Rico as a Category 4 storm early Wednesday.