(HAVANA) — Hurricane Fiona roared over the Dominican Republic on Monday after knocking out power across all of Puerto Rico, causing damage the governor said was “catastrophic.” Many people were left without water service.
Although no deaths were reported, authorities from the U.S. Territory said that it was too soon to determine the extent of the damage caused by the massive storm. The hurricane was expected to continue to batter Puerto Rico Monday.
The island’s National Weather Service office said flash flooding was occurring in south-central parts of Puerto Rico and tweeted, “MOVE TO HIGHER GROUND IMMEDIATELY!”
Up to 22 inches (56 centimeters) of rain had fallen in some areas of Puerto Rico and forecasters said another 4 to 8 inches could fall — perhaps up to 15 inches in some places — even as the storm moves away.
For the Dominican Republic’s eastern Dominican Republic authorities projected up to 15 inches (33.8 cm) of rainfall. Authorities told people not to go to work and closed all ports.
“It’s important people understand that this is not over,” said Ernesto Morales, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in San Juan.
He said flooding reached “historic levels,” with authorities evacuating or rescuing hundreds of people across the island.
“The damages that we are seeing are catastrophic,” said Gov. Pedro Pierluisi.
The territory’s water agency reported that it had cut domestic service to many areas because of turbulent water or lack of power.
Authorities in Catano, north coast, navigated through the streets flood-prone before dawn Monday. They also used a megaphone and a radio to warn people about the pump collapse, asking them to get out as quickly as they can.
According to authorities, at most 1,300 persons stayed the night in shelters on the island.
Brown water surged through streets, in homes and consumed the runway at southern Puerto Rico’s airport.
Fiona also removed asphalt roads from the town of Utuado in central Mexico. Police said that the bridge was built by the National Guard in response to Hurricane Maria in 2017.
A storm also tore off roofs, including Nelson Cirino’s Loiza home on the north coast.
“I was sleeping and saw when the corrugated metal flew off,” he said as he watched rain drench his belongings and wind whip his colorful curtains into the air.
According to the U.S. National Hurricane Center, Fiona was located 10 miles (15 km) southeast Samana, Dominican Republic. It sustained maximum winds of 85 mph (170 kph) Monday morning. At 8 mph, it was moving towards the northwest at 13 kph.
Tropical storm-force winds reached 140 miles (2220km) away from the centre.
Forecasters said the storm’s was expected to emerge over the Atlantic in the afternoon and pass close to the Turks and Caicos islands on Tuesday. As a major hurricane, it could approach Bermuda on Thursday night or Friday.
Fiona hit Puerto Rico on the anniversary of Hurricane Hugo, which slammed into the island in 1989 as a Category 3 storm, and two days before the anniversary of 2017’s devastating Hurricane Maria — from which the territory has yet to fully recover.
Nearly 3,000 were killed in the hurricane, which also destroyed power lines. Even though the storm destroyed power grids, nearly 3,000 homes have no roof at all five years later.
Officials announced Monday that electricity had been restored to 100,000 people on the island with 3.2 million inhabitants. However, Luma Power Distribution Company said that it may take several days for full service to be restored.
U.S. President Joe Biden had declared a state of emergency in the U.S. territory as the eye of the storm approached the island’s southwest corner.
Puerto Rico’s health centers were running on generators — and some of those had failed. Carlos Mellado the health secretary said that generator repairs were made quickly at the Comprehensive Cancer Center. Many patients had to evacuate.
Officials said that Fiona had previously attacked the eastern Caribbean and killed one person in Guadeloupe, France, when flooding swept his house away.
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