(ATR) Hurricane Maria, the most powerful hurricane to hit Puerto Rico since 1928, is now over Turks and Caicos after devastating several Caribbean islands including Dominica, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
"The destruction has been impressive," Puerto Rico Olympic Committee president Sarah Rosario told Around the Rings.
"Now, at about six o'clock in the afternoon, the winds are beginning to be less strong," Rosario said during a conversation on Sept. 20 before the call was dropped.
"Definitely in Puerto Rico - when we can get outside - we will find our island destroyed," said director of the State Agency for Emergency Management and Disaster Management (AEMEAD) Abner Gomez. "The information we received is not encouraging. It's a system that has destroyed everything it has had in its wake."
As of Friday, the entirety of the country is without electric power. The capital of San Juan was hit especially hard by the category four hurricane with sustained winds of 155 miles per hour.
Before the call with Rosario was dropped, she confirmed to ATR that the historic Hiram Bithorn baseball stadium had suffered serious damage as a result.
The destruction of the stadium included the felling of the Bithorn statue, named after the famous Puerto Rican pitcher who became the commonwealth’s first baseball player to make the Major Leagues in the United States.
Hurricane Maria arrived in the Caribbean as a category five storm on Sept. 18 and had killed at least seven people in Dominica and one in Guadeloupe before whipping into the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
Several posts on Twitter showed the damage in the stadium.
This is the statue of legendary player Hiram Bithorn outside of the iconic stadium named after him in San Juan, PR. (Photos/@yamairamuniz) pic.twitter.com/yISN2jdpbl— Jesse Sanchez (@JesseSanchezMLB) September 22, 2017
The stadium has hosted major national league games and MLB games since 2001 when the Toronto Blue Jays and Texas Rangers opened that season in Puerto Rico. Between 2003 and 2004, the former Montreal Expos played 22 baseball games each season at Hiram Bithorn.
It was also the scene of the opening and closing ceremonies of the Central American and Caribbean Games of 1966 as well as the Pan American Games of 1979. It also hosted elimination matches of the World Baseball Classics of 2006, 2009 and 2013.
The stadium had been scheduled to host the Major League Baseball (MLB) series between the Minnesota Twins and the Cleveland Indians, although these plans are now marked by uncertainty.
The Olympic Hostel, Puerto Rico’s most complete sports training and recreation center, was inaugurated in 1985 and is also home to the Puerto Rican Sports Museum in the city of Salinas. It is yet to be confirmed whether the Olympic Hostel suffered significant damages.
"I'm from there, and I've heard from my family that the river near the Olympic Hostel has overflowed," Linda de Jesus, a member of the Boricua community in Central Florida, tells ATR.
"This hurricane is going to cause the island of Puerto Rico to be declared a disaster zone. It will be a historic event for the people of Puerto Rico," said Gomez.
In the Dominican Republic, the Emergency Operations Center has expanded the red alert to 14 the provinces.
It is assumed that the men’s Pan American Softball Championship, for men, hosted by the Juan Pablo Duarte Olympic Center in Santo Domingo, has been halted until conditions permit it to resume.
The tournament is organized by the World Baseball and Softball Confederation and Softball America and serves as a qualifier for five teams to the Central American Games in Barranquilla, Colombia in 2018 and five to the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru in 2019.
Leaders of PanamSports and the International Olympic Committee are assessing the destruction in the region from Hurricanes Irma and Maria and providing Olympic Solidarity funds to aid in relief efforts.
Written by Miguel Hernandez and translated by Kevin Nutley.
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