More than 1.4 million people in Puerto Rico were without electricity on Sunday (18), when the hurricane Fiona interrupted supplies across the island and hit the territory with heavy rain, winds and life-threatening flooding, officials said.
As severe weather continued to hit Puerto Rico on Sunday night, Hurricane Fiona began moving westward towards Dominican Republic where it made landfall near Boca de Yuma at 3:30 am (local time), according to a special update from the National Hurricane Center.
So far, at least one death has been recorded in the badly damaged town of Basse-Terre, capital of the French territory of Guadeloupe, the vice president of the territory’s environmental agency said on Sunday.
The hurricane made landfall on the southwest coast of Puerto Rico on Sunday afternoon, hitting the island with strong winds of up to 120 kilometers per hour and bringing 15 to 61 centimeters of rain in some areas by the end of the day, according to the Weather Service. National.
Fiona continues to hit Puerto Rico and parts of eastern Dominican Republic overnight and this Monday (19). Eastern areas of the Dominican Republic could also experience flooding, as well as landslides in higher areas, according to the hurricane center. Fiona can bring a total of up to 760mm of rain to Puerto Rico and up to 305mm to the eastern and northern Dominican Republic.
The hurricane is expected to gain strength as it passes through the Dominican Republic and is expected to move toward the Turks and Caicos Islands and the Bahamas on Monday and Tuesday, according to the National Hurricane Center. The Turks and Caicos Islands are under hurricane watch and the Southern Bahamas is under tropical storm watch.
LUMA Energy, Puerto Rico’s main utility, said in a statement Sunday that it could be days before power is restored, adding that “several interruptions to the transmission line” are contributing to the blackout. The process will be done “little by little”, Governor Pedro Pierluisi said in a Facebook post.
The website PowerOutage.us reported that the entire island was without power on Monday morning, adding that LUMA “re-energized some circuits, however there is limited information and no figures on how many customers have had power restored”.
Power outages have become a familiar crisis for many living in Puerto Rico. Just five months ago, residents experienced another island-wide blackout after a fire broke out at a power plant.
Parts of the island still bear the scars of Hurricane Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico almost exactly five years ago. After Hurricane Maria inflicted catastrophic damage to the territory’s infrastructure, it took nearly a year to restore power to the entire island.
Samuel Rivera and his mother, Lourdes Rodríguez, lived without power for about a year after Maria’s impact, Rivera told Layla Santiago of CNN . On Sunday morning, they lost power again, sparking fears similar to those they had five years ago.
They said they are also concerned that a nearby river could overflow and the trees around their house could be blown down by strong winds.
Life-threatening floods in Puerto Rico
When Hurricane Fiona made landfall on Sunday, most of Puerto Rico was under a flood alert in anticipation of the overwhelming rain. The National Weather Service in San Juan warned of “catastrophic” and life-threatening flood conditions.
A video of the dangerous floods shows torrential water easily sweeping across a bridge, dragging its structure downstream. Another shot by Samuel De Jesús shows a scene in the city of Arecibo as rain falls in torrents, increasing fast-moving waters that hit large construction vehicles and entire trees.
Many rivers on the east side of the island were in stages of moderate to heavy flooding on Sunday afternoon, including a river in the Southeast that rose more than 3.5 meters in less than 7 hours. On Sunday night, the National Weather Service also issued flood warnings for the southern parts of central Puerto Rico.
In response to the risk facing Puerto Rico, US President Joe Biden approved an emergency declaration early Sunday to provide federal assistance to disaster relief efforts.
More than 300 FEMA emergency workers were on the ground responding to the crisis, the agency’s Associate Administrator for Response and Recovery Anne Bink told CNN .
“Our hearts go out to the residents who are again experiencing another catastrophic event five years later,” said Anne, referring to the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Maria. This time, she said, FEMA plans to implement lessons learned from the 2017 crisis.
“We are much more prepared. We now have four strategically located warehouses across the island that include basic goods, exponentially larger inventories than in the past,” he said.
“We are there proactively and well ahead of any storm to make sure we are coordinating. And all the planning efforts we undertake during those blue sky days can be carried out when the rain falls.”
(With input from Leyla Santiago, Jamiel Lynch, Alfonso Serrano, Caitlin Kaiser, Allie Malloy, Haley Brink, Dakin Andone and Robert Shackelford of CNN)
Source: CNN Brasil