Hurricane Fiona: Rain and high winds in Dominican Republic, “catastrophic” damage in Puerto Rico
Hurricane Fiona hit the Dominican Republic on Monday after causing “catastrophic” flooding and damage in Puerto Rico, its Caribbean neighbor, where it left residents without power and continued to bring heavy rains.
In the Dominican Republic, the hurricane killed one person and forced 12,485 people from their homes, General Juan Méndez García, director of the Emergency Operations Center, told reporters.
According to journalists from AFP, several roads around the resort town of Punta Cana in the eastern Dominican Republic, where power was cut, were flooded or cut off by falling trees or power poles.
Winds were up to 90 mph and Fiona should continue to strengthen “over the next two days” to become a Category 3 hurricane (up to 5 on the Saffir-Simpson scale) on Tuesday, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC) based in Miami.
Fiona is now traveling to the Turks and Caicos Islands.
The hurricane, which made landfall in the Dominican Republic early Monday, “passed by at full speed,” Vicente Lopez, who runs Punta Cana’s Bibijagua Beach, told AFP, reporting destroyed businesses.
Strong winds also swept across the northern city of Nagua, according to AFP.
Videos released by the local press showed residents of the coastal town of Higüey (east) standing waist-deep in water trying to hide their belongings.
– state of emergency –
In Puerto Rico, where the hurricane passed first and a tropical storm warning remained in effect, “the damage to infrastructure … and homes was catastrophic,” Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Pierluisi said during a news conference.
Fiona caused landslides, downed trees and power lines, made roads impassable and swept away a bridge in the city of Utuado.
A man died “calcined” after putting fuel into a burning generator, according to authorities.
“Unfortunately, we are expecting more rain across the island today and tomorrow,” the Puerto Rico governor said, urging people not to venture out onto the streets.
“In many areas that have never had floods, water has accumulated without precedent,” “more than what we saw during Hurricane Maria,” explained Mr. Pierluisi.
According to the authorities, more than 800,000 people were left without a drinking water supply. “We are without electricity and without water,” Elena Santiago, an anesthetist at Aibonito Hospital (center), told AFP.
Fiona’s passage “was violent,” she explained. “The hospital runs on a generator, we only deal with emergencies.”
– Power failure –
A former Spanish colony, Puerto Rico, which became American territory in the late 19th century before gaining special status as an “Associated Free State” in the 1950s, has suffered from serious infrastructure problems for several years.
The island was devastated by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, severely damaging the power grid. This was then privatized in June 2021 with the declared aim of solving the problem of power outages. However, the island experienced a power outage in April 2022.
The entire territory of Puerto Rico, which has a population of more than three million, was without power as the hurricane approached. According to the governor, power was restored to 100,000 people on Monday.
On Sunday, Fiona had upgraded from a tropical storm to a Category 1 hurricane on the lower end of the Saffir-Simpson scale, making landfall on the southwest coast of Puerto Rico.
US President Joe Biden has declared a state of emergency. Speaking to the island’s governor on Monday, he said the number of federal employees already working to help the territory, currently more than 300, would increase “significantly”.
As the sea surface warms, the frequency of the strongest hurricanes, with stronger winds and heavier precipitation, is increasing.
Fiona had already caused serious damage during her overnight visit to Guadeloupe from Friday to Saturday. In places, the water had risen by more than 1.5 meters. A man had died there, his house swept away by the waves of a flooded river.
Dozens of people in the archipelago had to be relocated, roads remained impassable and part of the archipelago still had no drinking water two days after Storm Fiona passed through, consistent sources told us on Monday.
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