Hurricane Fiona made landfall in the Dominican Republic, a day after the storm knocked out power to all of Puerto Rico and caused what the island’s governor described as “catastrophic” damage.
The Dominican Republic was lashed on Monday by “extremely heavy rain” and winds of up to 145 km per hour (90 mph), said Eric Blake of the US National Hurricane Center (NHC).
Juan Salas, director of the country’s Civil Protection Office, said that some 800 people were evacuated from high-risk areas, as well as from near rivers and streams in rural communities in the east.
Up to 15 inches (380 mm) of rain was projected for the eastern Dominican Republic, where authorities told most people to stay home and prohibited the use of beaches.
Hurricane #Fiona Warning 20A: Hurricane conditions continue in parts of the Dominican Republic. Heavy rains and catastrophic flooding continue across much of Puerto Rico. https://t.co/tW4KeGe9uJ
— National Hurricane Center (@NHC_Atlantic) September 19, 2022
Juan Manuel Méndez, director of the Dominican Republic Emergency Operations Center, warned that the rains could persist for two days, even though the eye of the hurricane is expected to move away from Dominican territory later on Monday.
Meanwhile, no deaths were reported in Puerto Rico, where the hurricane made landfall on Sunday, but officials said it was too early to know the full extent of damage from the expansive storm that is still forecast to unleash torrential rain. throughout the United States.
“The damage we are seeing is catastrophic,” Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Pierluisi said.
US President Joe Biden on Sunday approved an emergency declaration for Puerto Rico, authorizing the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to coordinate disaster relief and provide emergency protective measures.
Puerto Rico’s power grid remains fragile after Hurricane Maria in September 2017 caused the largest blackout in US history.
In that Category 5 hurricane, which killed more than 3,000 people, 1.5 million customers lost power and 80 percent of power lines lost power. Thousands of Puerto Ricans still live under makeshift canvas roofs.
Up to 760 mm (30 inches) of rain was forecast for the southern region of Puerto Rico.
President Biden approved an emergency declaration request for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and directed his team to increase federal assistance to the region.
We are committed to supporting the people of Puerto Rico affected by Tropical Storm Fiona.
— Karine Jean-Pierre (@PressSec) September 18, 2022
“It is important that people understand that this is not over,” said Ernesto Morales, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in San Juan. He said the flooding reached “historic levels,” and authorities evacuated or rescued hundreds of people across the island.
Nearly 90 percent of Puerto Rico remained without power on Monday, according to the Poweroutage.us website, which tracks blackouts. Officials said it would take days to reconnect the entire island of 3.3 million people.
Before dawn Monday, authorities in a boat navigated the flooded streets of the northern coastal city of Catano and used a megaphone to alert people that the bombs had collapsed, urging them to evacuate as soon as possible.
Authorities said at least 1,300 people stayed overnight in shelters across the island.
The brown water rushed through streets and homes, and consumed the runway of an airport in southern Puerto Rico.
Fiona also ripped asphalt from roads and leveled a bridge in the central mountain town of Utuado that police say was installed by the National Guard after Hurricane Maria.
The hurricane also tore roofs off homes, including Nelson Cirino’s in the northern coastal city of Loiza.
“I was sleeping and I saw the corrugated metal fly away,” Cirino said as she watched the rain soak her belongings and the wind toss her colorful curtains into the air.
Fiona was centered 35 miles (55 km) southeast of Samaná in the Dominican Republic, with maximum sustained winds of 90 mph (150 km/h) on Monday morning, according to the NHC. She was moving northwest at 8 mph (13 km/h).
Tropical storm force winds extended out to 150 miles (240 km) from the center.
Forecasters said the storm was expected to emerge over the Atlantic in the afternoon and pass near the Turks and Caicos Islands on Tuesday. It could approach Bermuda as a major hurricane late Thursday or Friday.
Fiona previously hit the eastern Caribbean, killing a man in the French territory of Guadeloupe when floodwaters washed away his home, authorities said.
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