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Thursday
Sep212017

Tenth patient dead after Florida nursing home lost air conditioning in Hurricane Irma

John McCall/South Florida Sun-Sentinel/TNS/Getty Images(HOLLYWOOD, Fla.) -- A 10th person has died after a Florida nursing home lost its air conditioning in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, subjecting the residents to sweltering heat.

Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills resident Martha Murray, 94, died Wednesday, the Hollywood Police Department announced in a press release.

Florida officials have suspended the nursing home's license in the wake of the deaths. The facility is now the subject of a criminal investigation.

More than 100 residents were evacuated from the nursing home, which is affiliated with the Larkin Community Hospital, on Sept. 13 after the facility's air conditioning system failed.

Medical staff from Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood, which is near the nursing home, described a chaotic scene of evacuating the patients from the nursing home after three came into the emergency room with "extraordinarily high temperatures."

Some of the patients who were admitted to the hospital had temperatures of up to 106 degrees, hospital officials told ABC News. Once hospital staff realized something was amiss at the nursing home, they went into a mass casualty incident mode and began wheeling patients from the nursing home to the hospital on stretchers.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has vowed to hold those responsible for the deaths accountable.

On Friday, a Miami law firm filed an emergency complaint against the nursing home requesting that a judge grant an order to protect evidence. The complaint alleges that the center became aware that its air conditioning had "ceased to operate effectively and appropriately" days before several residents died.

Nursing home administrator Jorge Carballo said in a statement last week that the facility was evacuated Wednesday "due to a prolonged power failure to the transformer, which powered the facility's air conditioning system as a result of the hurricane."

"Facility administration is cooperating fully with relevant authorities to investigate the circumstances that led to this unfortunate and tragic outcome. Our hearts go out to the families and friends of those who were affected," he added.

In a later statement, Carballo said, "The center and its medical and administrative staff diligently prepared" for the hurricane.

"We took part in emergency management preparedness calls with local and state emergency officials, other nursing homes and health regulators," he said. "While our center did not lose power during the storm, it did lose one transformer that powers the air conditioning unit. The center immediately contacted Florida Power & Light and continued to follow up with them for status updates on when repairs would be made. Outreach was also made to local emergency officials and first responders.”

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John McCall, South Florida Sun-Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images
Thursday
Sep212017

Woman, children rescued from capsized ship near Puerto Rico

iStock/Thinkstock(SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico) -- A woman and two children have been rescued after they were spotted perched atop an overturned ship off the coast of Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

A fourth family member, an adult man, was reported deceased inside the ship, which the Coast Guard said was "inaccessible" to search and rescue crews.

The Coast Guard -- alongside the U.S. and British Royal Navies -- first launched a search for the vessel after receiving a distress call on Wednesday morning, while Maria was battering the area.

The ship, "Ferrel," reported it was "disabled and adrift" amid 20-foot seas and 100-knot winds near Vieques, an island off Puerto Rico's eastern coast, the Coast Guard said. They later lost contact with the vessel due to the weather.

After a Coast Guard C-130 located the capsized vessel, a Royal Navy rescue chopper was dispatched to assist.

Authorities described the ship as "a research vessel that the family was using as a recreational vessel." Records show the ship was built in 1968.

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Thursday
Sep212017

Explosion damages multiple Los Angeles homes

KABC-TV(LOS ANGELES) -- The back of a house in western Los Angeles exploded Wednesday, blowing debris across multiple backyards and significantly damaging the home and surrounding area.

Two people were inside the West Hills home at the time of the incident, but according to the Los Angeles Fire Department, no one was injured.

The official cause of the blast is not known at this time, but police told ABC Los Angeles station KABC-TV that they believe a natural gas leak could be to blame. The Los Angeles Police Department told KABC-TV that they have ruled out narcotics activities as the cause of the explosion.

"We heard this giant, like, boom," neighbor Jordan C'Dealva-Lenik told KABC-TV, adding that he at first thought it was an earthquake. "So me and my mother, we ran out of the house because we didn't know. The whole house was shaking. We didn't feel any more tremors after that, so we said, 'OK, it's not an earthquake.' "

When a news helicopter flew over the damage, wrecked appliances, furniture, bricks and wooden beams could be seen scattered over multiple properties. Six homes within the blast zone were marked as damaged by the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety. One woman reportedly lost all of her home's windows in the explosion, according to KABC-TV.

Her brother, Harvey Aingworth, told KABC-TV that "she was extremely upset. She was crying. She said, 'The house across the street exploded.' "

Aingworth said he saw the fire department picking pieces of glass out of nearby trees because the force of the blast had shattered debris that far.

Footage also showed a pickup truck in the driveway with a damaged hood and blown-out windows.

The explosion was so strong that it blasted through a brick partition between homes, collapsing an entire section.

Authorities told KABC-TV that they will continue to investigate the cause of the incident.


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Wednesday
Sep202017

Inside the Coast Guard's record $6-billion year in drug seizures 

Tamilisa Miner/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Miles off the coast of California, a Customs and Border Protection aircraft armed with high-powered surveillance cameras locked in on a tiny object glimmering in the horizon. Suspicious, authorities zoomed in closer and observed a triangular submarine-like vessel operating almost completely underwater to avoid observation and radar.

The Coast Guard Cutter Steadfast was dispatched to intercept the suspected smuggling boat.

It’s been a record year for high seas drug seizures like these -- 50,000 pounds of cocaine and heroin valued at more than a half-a-billion dollars have been confiscated since August.

A record $6 billion dollars in drugs have been intercepted this year and nearly 600 suspected traffickers were arrested and turned over to federal authorities for prosecution, according to the U.S. Coast Guard and Department of Justice.

On Wednesday, the Coast Guard offloaded 50,550 pounds of cocaine and heroin worth an estimated $679.3 million in San Diego, CA. Wednesday morning's offload, which was attended by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, was the result of 25 separate seizures conducted by four Coast Guard cutters and a Navy ship, which began on Aug. 2, 2017.

"We are facing a challenge in this country with drug abuse, addiction like we've never seen before," said Sessions.

Sessions credited this rise to the availability, purity and low price of illicit drugs.

Including Wednesday's offload, more than 455,034 pounds of cocaine, worth over $6.1 billion, has been intercepted by the Coast Guard in Fiscal Year 2017, which topped the 2016 record of 443,000 pounds.

Nearly 600 suspected smugglers were apprehended by the Coast Guard and turned over to federal authorities for prosecution in the U.S. during the year. That's up from 465 suspects in 2016 and 373 in fiscal year 2015.

Commandant Admiral Paul Zukunft said Wednesday that while the Coast Guard is "getting better" at intercepting these drug boats, there is also increase in cultivation and production, particularly in Colombia.

Most of the cocaine consumed here in the United States originates in Colombia, according to the Coast Guard.

"Last year, we had 60,000 fatalities due to drug usage [in the U.S.] and that number will only go up next year," said Zukunft while making the case for the need for a bigger Coast Guard.

Back on that August day, out at sea, the camera picked up four passengers who glow as if radioactive. Soon teams of heavily armed members of the Coast Guard surrounded the semi-submersible or so-called narco submarine and the suspects raised their hands in the air -- the result of a joint Coast Guard, CBP and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigation.

On board the suspected smuggler’s vessel, more than three tons of cocaine —- millions of dollars worth -- is found, allegedly bound for the U.S.



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Wednesday
Sep202017

Puerto Rico in dark, curfew set after island 'destroyed' by Hurricane Maria, officials say

ABC News(SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico) -- Puerto Rico in dark, curfew set after island 'destroyed' by Hurricane Maria, officials say

The island of Puerto Rico has been "destroyed" after Hurricane Maria made landfall there as a Category 4 storm Wednesday morning, according to emergency officials.

Puerto Rico's office of emergency management confirmed that 100 percent of the U.S. territory had lost power, noting that anyone with electricity was using a generator.

A spokesperson with the Puerto Rico governor's office confirmed one person has died in the storm. They were killed in Bayamon, just southwest of San Juan, after being hit in the head by a wooden panel.

Multiple transmission lines sustained damage from the storm, said Ricardo Ramos, director of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority. Ramos said he hopes to begin launching helicopters by this weekends to begin inspecting the transmission lines.

Telecommunications throughout the island have "collapsed," Abner Gomez Cortes, executive director of Puerto Rico's office of emergency management and disaster administration agency, told ABC News.

As of 11 p.m. ET, Maria had weakened to a Category 2 hurricane with maximum sustained wind of 110 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. It was located about 55 miles northeast of Punta Cana, a popular tourist destination in the Dominican Republic.

The hurricane warning for Puerto Rico was officially discontinued at 11 p.m., according to the National Weather Service, but heavy rain continued overnight.

Conditions on the eastern side of the Dominican Republic were further deteriorating overnight Wednesday into Thursday.

Some strengthening is possible now that the storm is back over the ocean, so Maria has potential to become a Category 3 hurricane again. Maria is forecast to churn past off the eastern shore of the Dominican Republic into Thursday before moving near Turks and Caicos and the southeast Bahamas Thursday night through Friday.
 
The latest track has Maria curving north and eventually north-northeast. Forecast models currently show the storm continuing to weaken next week as it travels far offshore, staying away from Florida and the Southeast coast. The only impacts the storm will have on the east coast at this point will be dangerous surf and rip currents.

Cortes described Maria as an unprecedented storm, adding that the island had not seen a storm of that strength since 1928.

A hurricane task force for the U.S. Department of State is monitoring Maria's path in the Caribbean and will coordinate evacuations for U.S. citizens and provide aid on the ground, a State Department official told ABC News.

Puerto Rico was still experiencing tropical-storm force winds Wednesday afternoon, forcing emergency services and search and rescue teams to wait before heading out to assess the damage, Cortes said.

More than 12,000 people are currently in shelters, and hospitals are now running on generators, Cortes said. Two hospitals -- one in Caguas and one in Bayamon -- have been damaged.

No deaths have been reported so far, but catastrophic flooding is currently taking place on the island. Multiple rain gauges have reported between 18 and 24 inches of rain, with some approaching the 30-inch mark over the last 24 hours.

Flooding is the danger "that will take lives," Cortes said, advising residents not to venture out of their homes until Thursday because "it is not safe to go out and observe."

"We will rebuild our island with federal and state funds, hard work and the spirit of all Puerto Rican citizens," Cortes said.

ABC News correspondents observed widespread destruction in the town of Guaynabo, about 10 miles south of San Juan.

Trees and power lines were downed, and storefronts and building facades had crumbled. Neighborhoods in Guaynabo were filled with waist-deep floodwaters and destroyed homes that were clearly not built to any kind of code.

A Guaynabo resident who huddled in a bathroom with her family of six said told ABC News, "The winds took my home."

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello announced via Twitter that a curfew was in effect starting at 6 p.m.

Storm surge was predicted to be 6 to 9 feet in coastal Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Rainfall totals for Puerto Rico were projected at 12 to 18 inches, with as much as 35 inches in isolated areas.

Felix Delgado Montalvo, the mayor of Catano, some 7 miles southwest of San Juan, told ABC News on Wednesday there are hundreds of people in shelters and over 1,000 homes were damaged or destroyed in the communities of Juana Matos, La Puntilla and Puente Blanco. Most of the homes are flooded and are missing roofs or have collapsed walls, he said.

About 80 percent of residences in the Juana Matos community were destroyed from storm surge and flooding. Homes there are filled with at least 3 to 4 feet of water, according to Montalvo.

By Friday, Maria will pass to the east of Turks and Caicos, but the storm is not expected to make a direct hit.

From there, the hurricane is forecast to pass by the southeast islands of the Bahamas.

Maria leaves behind trail of death, destruction in Caribbean
Maria did severe damage to multiple Caribbean islands over the past 36 hours, including Dominica, Guadeloupe and the Virgin Islands.

The U.S. Department of State sent a message of solidarity Wednesday to the people of Dominica and all across the Caribbean who were affected by Maria.

Hartley Henry, an adviser to Dominica's prime minister, told reporters via WhatsApp on Wednesday that several people have died and the death toll "will rise" as officials continue to assess the widespread damage on the tiny island. Dominica has suffered a "tremendous loss of housing and public buildings" since the storm hit, ripping off roofs and tearing doors from hinges. The island's main general hospital "took a beating" and "patient care has been compromised," he said.

"The country is in a daze -- no electricity, no running water," Henry said via a WhatsApp message. "In summary, the island has been devastated."

The Ross University School of Medicine, based in Portsmouth, Dominica, announced on Facebook that it is attempting to make contact with all of its students. More than 1,400 students and faculty have signed the registration sheet so far, and the school has reached out to the family members of more than 700 others, who informed them that they are safe.

Officials in Guadeloupe announced Wednesday that two people were killed and two others were missing due to the storm.

France's Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said some 80,000 people in Guadeloupe -- around 40 percent of the population -- were without electricity Wednesday. Many roads there are impassible due to flooding and French Navy planes have not been able to assess the damage on the island due to bad weather conditions.

In Martinique, about 70,000 homes were without electricity and 50,000 homes did not have access to safe drinking water Wednesday. Fallen trees and downed power poles have blocked many roads there, Collomb said.

Police and soldiers have been deployed in both Martinique and Guadeloupe to ensure security. More than 3,000 first responders are on the French Caribbean islands, according to Collomb.

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Wednesday
Sep202017

Navy identifies corpsmen behind disturbing social post calling newborns 'mini Satans'

PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The Navy has identified the two corpsmen who were removed from their posts after they allegedly posted a video and photos of a newborn to Snapchat that drew outrage on social media.

The video, filmed at the Naval Hospital in Jacksonville, Florida, shows a female corpsman holding the infant by the armpits while rocking the baby to rap music playing in the background, while one of the photos shows another female corpsman flipping the middle finger at the newborn with the caption "how I currently feel about these mini Satans."

The two women allegedly involved in the incident have been identified as Allyson Jeanette Thompson and Joan Hunter Barrett Fender. Neither woman could immediately be reached by ABC News for comment.

"The individuals have been removed from patient care meaning they will not be providing direct patient care," said Capt. Brenda Malone, a spokesperson for the Navy's Bureau of Medicine.

Thompson of Alabama enlisted in the Navy three years ago in August 2014, according to a biography provided by the Navy. She served a tour of duty on the U.S.S. Mason, a Navy destroyer, before attending Hospital Corpsman School and reporting to the Naval Hospital in Jacksonville in February. Fender of Pennsylvania has served less than two years in the Navy, according to a biography provided by the Navy. She attended Hospital Corpsman School before starting at the Naval Hospital about two months ago.

A Navy official said the posting of the photos was being investigated by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) and that only one newborn had been involved in the photos posted online by the corpsmen.

The images are no longer on Snapchat, but screengrabs have been shared on Facebook by concerned users.

The Navy's surgeon general has ordered a stand down for all Navy medical personnel over the next 48 hours to reaffirm service commitments to patients and review social media policies after photos emerged on social media.

"I have directed immediate mandatory all-hands stand downs within 48 hours at all Navy Medicine commands to review our oaths, our pledges, our reasons for serving, as well as Navy Medicine's policy regarding use of personally owned phones and other recording devices," Vice Adm. C. Forrest Faison III, the surgeon general of the Navy, in a blog post to Navy medical personnel.

The admiral also prohibited the use of personal cellphones by medical care personnel in patient care areas until further notice.

Faison also directed commanding officers at Naval medical facilities to contact mothers and expectant mothers to reassure them, inform them of the actions being taken and to address any of their concerns.

"Unprofessional and inappropriate social media behavior is inconsistent with both our core values of honor, courage and commitment as well as our medical ethics, violating the oaths we took for our profession and office," said Faison.

"In an age where information can be shared instantly, what we say and post online must reflect the highest standards of character and conduct, in both our personal and professional lives," said Faison. "As health care professionals, we are entrusted with the lives and well-being of all those who have volunteered to defend our freedom, including their families. We owe them the best care and compassion our nation can offer.

"We also owe them our unqualified respect," he added. "Any behavior that falls short of this expectation will be dealt with appropriately."

Faison also ordered commanders to make sure "no additional patient photos exist on social media and to take immediate action to remove such content."

A Navy official said stand downs for Navy medical personnel will take place in a staggered fashion over the next two days to ensure there is no impact to providing patient care.

"We are also contacting patients to address any questions or concerns they may have," said Malone.



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Wednesday
Sep202017

Hurricane Maria makes landfall in Puerto Rico as Category 4 storm

iStock/Thinkstock(SAN JUAN) -- Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico as a Category 4 storm on Wednesday morning, according to the National Hurricane Center.

While the storm's maximum sustained winds had dropped to 145 mph by 9 a.m. ET, it still threatened to do severe damage to the U.S. territory. A Category 4 storm has not hit the island since 1932.

Hurricane Maria was moving at 13 mph, and the storm's eye was located about 15 miles away from San Juan, Puerto Rico's capital, as of 9 a.m.

A weather station near Arecibo, some 43 miles from San Juan, recently reported a sustained wind of 71 mph and a wind gust of 91 mph.

"This is an extremely dangerous and life-threatening situation," the National Hurricane Center warned.

Storm surge was predicted to be 6 to 9 feet in coastal Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Rainfall totals for Puerto Rico were projected at 12 to 18 inches, with as much as 25 inches in isolated areas.

Maria is forecast to cross Puerto Rico on Wednesday and then approach the Dominican Republic, where conditions will deteriorate Wednesday evening as Hurricane Maria passes just north of Punta Cana around midnight.

Forecast models currently show the storm traveling east of Florida and the Carolinas.

The storm did severe damage to multiple Caribbean islands over the past 36 hours, including Dominica, Guadeloupe and the Virgin Islands.

Guadeloupe confirmed two people were killed and two others were missing due to the storm.

There was widespread damage across Dominica, as could be seen in the first aerial video from the tiny island taken Tuesday.

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Wednesday
Sep202017

St. Louis police probe whether officer called protestors ‘domestic terrorists’ on Facebook

iStock/Thinkstock(ST. LOUIS) -- The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department is investigating reports that one of its officers posted a meme on Facebook that referred to Black Lives Matter protesters as "domestic terrorists," according to a local newspaper.

The announcement came earlier this week amid protests in St. Louis over a judge's decision to acquit a white former police officer in the 2011 shooting death of a black man.

Lisa Clancy, a participant in the protests, said a St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department officer posted the meme in the comments section of a Facebook post she wrote on Saturday, explaining why she attended the protests, according to the Belleville News-Democrat.

Clancy alleged that the officer commented on her original post with a photo from a Black Lives Matter rally with “the Klan with a tan” and “domestic terrorists” superimposed on it.

Clancy also posted a screenshot of the interaction on Twitter on Sunday, tagging both the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department and St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson.

The controversial comment has since been deleted, and ABC News was unable to reach the owner of the Facebook account in question.

A spokesperson for the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department told the Belleville News-Democrat on Monday that the department had launched an internal investigation into “the matter,” but they did not confirm if the person was indeed one of its officers.

Monday morning march

More than a thousand peaceful demonstrators carrying "Black Lives Matter" signs and ones that read "No Justice, No Profits" took to the streets in St. Louis last week after St. Louis Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson found Jason Stockley, 36, not guilty of first-degree murder and armed criminal action. On Dec. 20, 2011, the then-police officer shot 24-year-old Lamar Smith five times after a high-speed chase and crash.

Some 160 people have been arrested since the demonstrations began on Friday, according to figures released by the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department Tuesday as the protests carried on into a fifth day.

Leaders of multiple faiths on Tuesday called for peace and justice amid the chaos that followed Friday's acquittal. Speakers at the service included Roman Catholic Archbishop Robert Carlson, black church pastors, and Jewish and Muslim leaders.

"Let us remember that we are not a divided humanity, but a human family," Carlson said. "Let us show love instead of hatred."

Protesters gathered outside the jail in downtown St. Louis for more than two hours on Monday to show solidarity with those who remain behind bars, but there was no repeat of the vandalism that occurred over the weekend, according to reports.

Organizers of the peaceful protests said they were frustrated with the demonstrators getting unruly at night, saying they could make it harder for them to spread their nonviolent message. Krewson on Tuesday said she's planning to meet with protesters.

“Today we saw again that the vast majority of protesters were nonviolent,” Krewson said during an early morning briefing on Monday. “But, for the third day in a row, the days have been calm and the nights have been destructive.”

The St. Louis Police Department also tweeted images of confiscated knives, guns, masks and other types of protective gear from a “rioter” who police said was arrested.

Local organizer Anthony Bell said he understands why some act out, but he urged people to remain calm.

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Wednesday
Sep202017

Jimmy Kimmel rips senator for lying about new health care bill

United States Congress(NEW YORK) -- Jimmy Kimmel ripped into Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana on his show Tuesday night for proposing new health care legislation that Kimmel said fails the "Jimmy Kimmel test" that Cassidy himself had proposed in an appearance on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" in May.

Cassidy appeared on the program earlier this year after Kimmel made an emotional plea for health care legislation that would insure affordable health coverage for all, including people with pre-existing conditions and with no lifetime caps, in the wake of Kimmel's newborn son needing life-saving heart surgery.

But Kimmel said Wednesday night the new legislation Cassidy and co-sponsor Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., have proposed in the Senate did not meet those requirements.

"Not only did Bill Cassidy fail the Jimmy Kimmel test, he failed the Bill Cassidy test," Kimmel said. "He failed his own test."

Kimmel didn't mince words for Cassidy, who Kimmel said "wasn't very honest" when he appeared on the show in the spring.

"I don't know what happened to Bill Cassidy, but when he was on this publicity tour he listed his demands for a health care bill very clearly. These were his words: He said he wants coverage for all, no discrimination based on pre-existing conditions, lower premiums for middle class families and no lifetime caps. And guess what? The new bill does none of those things," Kimmel said.

Speaking directly to Cassidy, Kimmel said, "Stop using my name, all right, 'cause I don't want my name on it. There's a new Jimmy Kimmel test for you, it's called a lie detector test, you're welcome to come by the studio and take it any time."

Kimmel also had strong words for critics on social media unhappy that he has turned his son's health into a political cause.

"Before you post the nasty Facebook message saying I'm politicizing my son's health problems, I want you to know, I am politicizing my son's health problems because I have to," he said.

Kimmel listed the many health care organizations that have opposed the legislation and called on viewers to take action saying of bill's backers.

"They're counting on you to be so overwhelmed with all the information, you just trust them to take care of you. But they're not taking care of you," Kimmel said. "They're taking care of the people who give them money, like insurance companies, and we're all just looking at our Instagram accounts, liking things, while they're voting on whether people can afford to keep their children alive or not."

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Wednesday
Sep202017

Building codes on Puerto Rico unable to withstand Category 5 storms: Expert

iStock/ThinkStock(NEW YORK) -- With Hurricane Maria bearing down, residents in Puerto Rico are hunkering down, preparing for 175 mph winds, 6- to 9-foot storm surge and up to 25 inches of rain. Unfortunately, most of the homes in Puerto Rico are built to withstand just 125 mph winds, characteristic of a Category 2 hurricane, according to one expert on building codes on the island.

With current gusts reaching 175 mph or more, the Category 5 storm, which slammed into the eastern Caribbean islands of Dominica and Guadeloupe Monday night, is expected to wreak havoc on the island, with the governor calling it the "potentially most catastrophic hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in a century.”

According to University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez engineering professor Dr. Luis Aponte-Bermúdez, Puerto Rico adopted the "International Building Code" in 2011, which requires residences withstand 140 mph winds, characteristic of a Category 3 storm.

When it comes to wind worthiness, these building codes are similar to the ones that govern mainland U.S. cities like Miami, an engineer at the Insurance Institute of Business & Home Safety tells ABC News.

However, the majority of the homes on the island were built prior to 2011, to a weaker code, and were "grandfathered" in.

Before 2011, Puerto Rico was using the "Uniform Building Code," which only required residences to withstand 125 mph winds, adopted after Hurricane Georges pummeled Puerto Rico in 1998.

Most legally built homes on the islands use that UBC 125-mph standard.

Worse still, many homes dotting the island fall into what's called "informal construction" -- built to no standard whatsoever.

These are homes built illegally, without proper regulation, by people who lack the economic resources to hire a constructor and instead just buy wood and other materials from the local hardware store.

These structures are "extremely vulnerable ... most of these homes are going to get destroyed," Aponte-Bermúdez says, noting that many similar homes on the nearby island of Culebra were recently wiped out by Hurricane Irma.

"With the passage of Hurricane Irma, the people of Puerto Rico not only demonstrated our resilience, but we banded together to show our kindness and hospitality to thousands of our fellow Americans in the U.S. Virgin Islands, BVI [British Virgin Islands], St. Marteen and beyond," Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said Tuesday afternoon.

"Now we’re looking down the barrel of Maria, a historic Category 5 hurricane. Although it looks like a direct hit with major damage to Puerto Rico is inevitable, I ask for America’s prayers," he continued. "No matter what happens here in the next 36 hours, Puerto Rico will survive, we will rebuild, we will recover and with your support, we will come out stronger than ever."

ABC News' Melissa Griffin and Josh Hoyos contributed to this report.

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