Fiona takes down the Dominican Republic after beating Puerto Rico

San Juan, Puerto Rico — Hurricane Fiona made landfall in the Dominican Republic on Monday, a day after slamming all of Puerto Rico and causing damage the governor has described as “catastrophic.” Many are also left without water service.

The blow from Fiona is all the more devastating because Puerto Rico has yet to recover from Hurricane Maria, which killed nearly 3,000 people and destroyed the power grid in 2017. Five years later, more than 3,000 homes on the island still have their tarps intact. blue for roofing. .

Wind and water from Fiona peeled the pavement, ripped off roofs and caused torrential rains to flood the house. The storm also knocked down a bridge and flooded an airport runway.

Authorities reported no direct deaths from Fiona, but Puerto Rican officials said it was too early to know the full extent of the damage. The storm is still forecast to bring torrential rain across the United States.

Officials reported one death related to a power outage — a 70-year-old man was burned to death while trying to fill his generator with gasoline while it was running.

Governor Pedro Pierluisi declined to say how long it would take to fully restore power, but for most customers, “it’s a question of the day.”

The island’s National Weather Service office said flash flooding was occurring in south-central areas of Puerto Rico, and tweeted: “MOVE TO HIGHER HIGHLIGHTS IMMEDIATELY!”

Up to 22 inches (56 cm) of rain has fallen in some parts of Puerto Rico and forecasters say another 4 to 8 inches could fall as the storm moves away, possibly even more in some places.

Total rainfall of up to 15 inches (38 cm) has been forecast in the eastern Dominican Republic, where authorities have closed ports and beaches and ordered most people to stay home from work.

“It’s important that people understand that this isn’t over yet,” said Ernesto Morales, a weather service meteorologist in San Juan.

He said the flooding had reached “historic levels,” with authorities having to evacuate or rescue hundreds of people across Puerto Rico.

“The damage we are seeing is catastrophic,” Pierluisi said.

Water service was cut off to more than 837,000 customers – two-thirds of all customers on the island – because of turbid water at refineries or a lack of electricity, officials said.

Before dawn Monday, authorities in a boat navigated flooded streets in the northern coast town of Catano and used a loudspeaker to warn residents that the pumps had been damaged. collapsed, urging them to evacuate as soon as possible.

Authorities said at least 1,300 people spent the night in shelters across the island.

Brown water spilled over streets, into homes and covered an airstrip in southern Puerto Rico.

The system also ripped asphalt from roads and washed away a bridge in the mountain town of Utuado that police said was installed by the National Guard after Category 4 Hurricane Maria made landfall.

Fiona also tore roofs off homes, including that of Nelson Cirino in the northern coastal town of Loiza.

“I was sleeping and when I saw the corrugated iron come out,” he said as he watched the rain wet his furniture and the wind blow his colorful curtains into the air.

On Monday morning, Fiona was centered about 10 miles (15 km) southeast of Samana in the Dominican Republic, with maximum sustained winds of 85 mph (140 km/h), according to the Hurricane Center United States of America. It is moving northwest at 8 mph (13 km/h).

The tropical storm’s winds extend 140 miles (220 km) from the center.

The storm is expected to move into the Atlantic in the afternoon and pass near the islands of Turks and Caicos on Tuesday. Forecasters say it could approach Bermuda as a major hurricane late Thursday or Friday.

Authorities announced Monday that electricity had been returned to 100,000 customers on the island of 3.2 million people, but electricity distribution company Luma said it could take days to fully restore service.

US President Joe Biden declared a state of emergency as the eye of the storm approached the southwestern corner of the island.

Puerto Rico’s medical centers are running on generators, and some of them have failed. Health Minister Carlos Mellado said crews rushed to repair generators at the Comprehensive Cancer Center, where some patients had to be evacuated.

Fiona previously devastated the eastern Caribbean, killing a man in the French territory of Guadeloupe when floodwaters swept away his home, officials said.

The system hit Puerto Rico on the anniversary of Hurricane Hugo, a Category 3 hurricane that hit the island in 1989.


Coto reports from Havana.

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