SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic, Sept. 21 (Xinhua) -- Emergency alerts were issued and mandatory evacuations urged Thursday in the Dominican Republic as severe flooding caused by Hurricane Maria cut off over two dozen communities.
A red alert, the highest level in the Caribbean state, has been issued in 26 of the 32 provinces, said the Center for Emergency Operations (CEO), the national civil protection agency.
The worst flooding was in Santiago, the second-largest city to the north. Residents in vulnerable regions were evacuated to higher ground.
The category-three storm also damaged roads, buildings and crops in the east, northeast and north of the country.
The CEO called for mandatory evacuations in areas where red and yellow emergency alerts have been sounded.
Though the storm was moving away from the island on its northwest trajectory, officials warned that "the worst is not over."
Maria is expected to cause as much as 8 to 16 inches (203.2 to 406.4 mm) of rain in the northern and eastern parts of the country by Saturday, with the potential risk of mudslides.