Hurricane Maria Makes Direct Hit on Dominica
The Caribbean island nation Dominica took a direct hit overnight from Hurricane Maria, after the storm rapidly strengthened into a Category 5 hurricane capable of bringing life-threatening storm surge and flooding rains.
Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit wrote on Facebook that initial reports indicate "widespread devastation."
"So far we have lost all what money can buy and replace. My greatest fear for the morning is that we will wake up to news of serious physical injury and possible deaths as a result of likely landslides triggered by persistent rains," Skerrit said.
He added that the focus is on finding people injured or trapped in rubble.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Maria had maximum sustained winds early Tuesday of about 250 kilometers per hour. The center of the storm was slowly moving away from Dominica and past the southern coast of Guadaloupe, while bands of strong winds and rain extended to many areas in the Leeward Islands and Lesser Antilles.
The National Hurricane Center expects the eye of Hurricane Maria to approach the U.S. Virgin Islands by late Tuesday as an "extremely dangerous major hurricane," and to cross over Puerto Rico on Wednesday.
U.S. President Donald Trump has declared a state of emergency for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and authorized Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to coordinate all relief efforts.
Aung San Suu Kyi Denounces Human Rights Violations in Rakhine State
Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi says her government condemns all human rights violations in western Rakhine state, where over 400,000 Rohingya Muslims have been forced to flee to safety into neighboring Bangladesh.
In an address Tuesday in the capital of Naypyitaw before a group of foreign diplomats, the Nobel Peace laureate, who serves as Myanmar's state councilor, said her country does not fear international scrutiny, and offered her assurance that any human rights violations or "acts that impair stability and harmony" will be dealt with "in accordance with strict norms of justice."
But she insisted that all "allegations are based on solid evidence before we take action."
She said Myanmar will set up a verification process for those refugees who wish to return home, and vowed their request "will be accepted without hesitation." But she also said many Muslims have remained in their homes, which have not been destroyed in the conflict, and invited the diplomats to join her government in finding out why those Muslims have integrated successfully in Rakhine state.
Rakhine state has been engulfed in violence since a group of Rohingya militants attacked dozens of police posts and an army base August 25. Security forces responded with an aggressive counteroffensive that triggered the current exodus, which the United Nations has described as "a textbook example of ethnic cleansing."
Long admired as a beacon of democracy over her decades of defiance towards Myanmar's former ruling military junta, Aung San Suu Kyi has borne the brunt of international criticism for her government's response to the violence. She has previously dismissed reports of the crisis in Rakhine state as "fake information designed to promote the interests of "terrorists."
The Rohingya are considered to be Bangladeshi migrants and are denied citizenship in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, even if they can show that their families have been in Myanmar for generations.