Fiona hits the Turks and Caicos Islands, Puerto Rico still stunned

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Hurricane Fiona blasted through the Turks and Caicos Islands Tuesday as a Category 3 storm after devastating Puerto Rico, where most people were left without power or running water.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Hurricane Fiona blasted through the Turks and Caicos Islands Tuesday as a Category 3 storm after devastating Puerto Rico, where most people were left without power or running water.

Hurricane-like conditions are battering Grand Turk, the island’s capital of the small British territory, on Tuesday morning after the government imposed a curfew and urged people to flee flood-prone areas.

The storm was centered just 10 miles (15 kilometers) from the island, with hurricane-force winds extending up to 30 miles (45 kilometers) from the center.

“Storms are unpredictable,” Prime Minister Washington Misick said in a statement from London, where he was attending Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral. “You must therefore take every precaution to ensure your safety.”

Fiona had maximum sustained winds of 115 mph (185 km/h) and was moving north-northwest at 10 mph (17 km/h), according to the US National Hurricane Center, which said the storm is likely to further strengthen into a Category 4 hurricane as it approaches Bermuda on Friday.

It was expected to weaken before colliding with extreme eastern Canada over the weekend.

The broad storm continued to bring heavy rain to the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, where a 58-year-old man died after police said he was swept away by a river in the central mountain town of Comerio .

Another death was linked to a power outage – a 70-year-old man was burned to death after trying to fill his generator with gasoline while it was running, officials said.

Parts of the island had received more than 25 inches (64 centimeters) of rain and others were falling on Tuesday.

Brigadier of the National Guard. General Narciso Cruz called the resulting flooding historic.

“There were communities that were flooded by the storm that weren’t flooded under Maria,” he said, referring to the 2017 hurricane that killed nearly 3,000 people. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Cruz said 670 people were rescued in Puerto Rico, including 19 people at a retirement home in the northern mountain town of Cayey that was in danger of collapsing.

“Rivers have broken their banks and covered communities,” he said.

Some were rescued via kayaks and boats while others nestled in the huge shovel of a backhoe and were lifted to higher ground.

He lamented that some people refused to leave their homes, adding that he understood them.

“It’s human nature,” he said. “But when they saw their lives were in danger, they agreed to leave.”

Fiona’s blow was made more devastating as Puerto Rico has yet to recover from Hurricane Maria, which knocked out the power grid in 2017. Five years later, more than 3,000 homes on the island are still covered with blue tarpaulins.

Authorities said Monday that at least 2,300 people and some 250 pets remained in shelters across the island.

Fiona triggered a power outage when it hit the southwest corner of Puerto Rico on Sunday, the anniversary of Hurricane Hugo, which hit the island in 1989 as a Category 3 storm.

As of Tuesday morning, authorities said they had restored power to more than 285,000 of the island’s 1.47 million customers. Governor Pierluisi warned it could take days before everyone has electricity.

Water service has been cut to more than 837,000 customers – two-thirds of the total on the island – due to cloudy water at filter plants or lack of power, officials said.

Fiona was not expected to threaten the American continent.

In the Dominican Republic, authorities have reported one fatality: a man struck by a falling tree. The storm displaced more than 12,400 people and isolated at least two communities.

The hurricane blocked several highways and a tourist pier in the town of Miches was badly damaged by high waves. At least four international airports have been closed, officials said.

Dominican President Luis Abinader said authorities would need several days to assess the effects of the storm.

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

Danica Coto, The Associated Press


Carol N. Valencia