Puerto Rico hit by blackout as Hurricane Fiona makes landfall

The entire island of Puerto Rico was without power on Sunday as Hurricane Fiona made landfall and threatened to cause “catastrophic flooding” and landslides before making landfall towards the Republic, a government agency said. Dominica.

The center of the storm made landfall on Puerto Rico’s southwest coast near Punta Tocon at 3:20 p.m. ET with maximum sustained winds of about 85 mph 140 km/h, crossing the threshold for a Category 1 hurricane, US Hurricane Center said.

LUMA Energy, the island’s grid operator and Puerto Rico’s power authority, said electricity was lost across the island of 3.3 million people. LUMA said full power restoration could take several days.

Puerto Rico’s ports have been closed and flights out of the main airport cancelled. Torrential rains and landslides are also forecast for the Dominican Republic as the storm moves to the northwest, with the Turks and Caicos Islands likely to face tropical storm conditions on Tuesday, according to the NHC. NHC said.

“These rains will cause life-threatening and catastrophic flash floods and urban flooding across Puerto Rico and the eastern Dominican Republic, along with mudslides and landslides in areas,” the agency said. have higher terrain”.

Satellite images provided by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) show Hurricane Fiona in the Caribbean on Sunday. The eye of Hurricane Fiona just formed near the coast of Puerto Rico and it caused power outages across the island. (NOAA via The Associated Press)

US President Joe Biden declared a state of emergency over US territory as the eye of the storm approached the southwestern corner of the island.

Puerto Rico’s largest public hospital is running on generators, and in some centers, these machines have failed. Health Secretary Carlos Mellado said crews were working to repair the generator as soon as possible at the Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Hurricane Maria killed nearly 3,000 people

Fiona hit just two days before the anniversary of Hurricane Maria, a devastating Category 4 hurricane that hit the island on September 20, 2017, destroying its power grid and killing nearly 3,000 people.

More than 3,000 houses still have only blue tarpaulin roofs and infrastructure is still weak.

Danny Hernandez, who works, said: “I think all of us Puerto Ricans who lived through Maria have had a feeling of post-traumatic stress, ‘What’s going to happen, how long will it last? and what needs may we face?’ capital of San Juan but plans to weather the storm with his parents and family in the western town of Mayaguez.

Nelson Cirino tightly shuts the windows of his home as the winds of Hurricane Fiona blow in Loiza, Puerto Rico, on Sunday. (Alejandro Granadillo / The Associated Press)

He said the atmosphere was gloomy at the supermarket as he and others stocked up on goods before the storm made landfall.

“After Maria, we all experienced some degree of scarcity,” he said.

The storm is forecast to hit cities and towns along Puerto Rico’s southern coast, which have yet to fully recover from a string of powerful earthquakes that began in late 2019.

Officials said several roads across the island were closed because trees and small landslides blocked access.

More than 640 people with about 70 pets sought shelter across the island on Saturday night, the majority of them on the south coast.

Puerto Rico’s power grid was flattened by Hurricane Maria and remains weak, having only recently begun rebuilding. Power outages are a daily occurrence.

‘Even the birds realized what was coming’

In the southwestern town of El Combate, hotel co-owner Tomas Rivera said he was prepared but worried about the “terrible” rainfall he expected. He noted that a nearby wildlife refuge was eerily quiet.

“There are thousands of birds here, and they can’t be seen,” he said. “Even the birds realize what’s coming and they’re preparing.”

Rivera said his employees brought bedridden family members to the hotel, where he stocked up on diesel, gasoline, food, water and ice, due to the government’s slow response after Hurricane Maria.

Jetsabel Osorio stands in a home damaged by Hurricane Maria five years ago before Tropical Storm Fiona arrived in Loiza, Puerto Rico, on Saturday. (Alejandro Granadillo / The Associated Press)

“What we did was prepare ourselves to depend as little as possible on the central government,” he said.

That’s a sentiment shared by Ana Cordova, 70, who arrived at a shelter in the northern coastal town of Loiza on Saturday after buying loads of food and water.

“I don’t trust them,” she said, referring to the government. “I lost faith after what happened after Hurricane Maria.”

The Governor of Puerto Rico, Pedro Pierluisi, activated the National Guard as the sixth named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season approached.

“The thing that worries me the most is the rain,” said forecaster Ernesto Morales of the National Weather Service in San Juan.

Fiona is forecast to reduce rainfall by 30 to 41 centimeters in eastern and southern Puerto Rico, with as much as 64 centimeters in isolated spots. Morales noted that Hurricane Maria in 2017 released 102 centimeters.

Some residents urged to move

A hurricane warning has been posted for the east coast of the Dominican Republic from Cabo Caonedo to Cabo Frances Viejo.

Officials said Fiona had previously ravaged the eastern Caribbean, killing a man in the French territory of Guadeloupe when floods swept away his home. The storm also damaged roads, uprooted trees and destroyed at least one bridge.

St. Kitts and Nevis also reported flooding and downed trees, but announced their international airport would reopen on Sunday afternoon. According to the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency, dozens of customers remain without electricity or water.

In the eastern Pacific, Tropical Storm Madeline is forecast to cause heavy rain and flooding across parts of southwestern Mexico. The center of the storm was about 245 kilometers southwest of Cabo Corrientes on Sunday morning, with maximum sustained winds of 75 km/h.

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