SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico/SANTO DOMINGO (Reuters) – Hurricane Fiona was moving north on Monday evening after dumping torrential rain and strong winds in the Dominican Republic and causing a complete blackout in neighboring Puerto Rico, where at least two people live. Die.
A Category 2 hurricane is likely to become a Category 3 hurricane as it moves through warm Caribbean waters toward the Turks and Caicos Islands. Fiona was upgraded to a Category Two with winds of 105 mph (169 km/h) by the National Hurricane Center Monday night.
The US National Hurricane Center said it is expected to pass central Fiona on Tuesday near or to the east of the archipelago, which is currently under a hurricane warning. Tropical storms are also expected in the Bahamas.
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After the bombing of Puerto Rico, Fiona made landfall in the Dominican Republic near Boca Yuma at 3:30 a.m. local time, according to the NHC. The center of the storm reached the northern coast of Hispaniola by noon.
This is the first hurricane to hit the Dominican Republic directly since Jane left extensive damage in the east of the country in September 2004.
Fiona caused severe flooding that cut off several villages, about 800 people were evacuated and more than 11,000 people were without power in the eastern region of the country.
“The damage is huge,” said Dominican Republic President Luis Abenader. He plans to declare a state of disaster in the provinces of La Altagracia, where the famous resort of Punta Cana, El Cebu and Hato Mayor are located.
In La Altagracia, in the far east of the country, where the hurricane made landfall on Monday morning, the flood of the Yuma River damaged farming areas and left several towns isolated.
Electricity and water utilities are working to restore services in the affected areas.
In Puerto Rico, a territory of the United States, residents still experience strong winds, frequent lightning, and torrential rain.
Fiona made landfall there on Sunday afternoon, dumping as much as 30 inches (76.2 cm) of rain in some areas.
The storm comes five years after Puerto Rico was devastated by Hurricane Maria, which caused the worst blackout in US history.
US President Joe Biden spoke with Puerto Rican Governor Pedro Pierluisi on Monday, and promised to increase the number of support personnel being sent to the island over the next few days.
“The president said he’s going to ensure that the federal team stays on the job to get it done,” the White House said.
FEMA Administrator Dean Cresswell will travel there on Tuesday.
Janet Rivera, 54, a public relations worker in Orlando, Florida, said she has not spoken to her family since an intermittent phone call early Sunday.
She fears for her parents’ safety and the health of her 84-year-old father, who just contracted COVID-19 and had a fever.
“My concern is that if they need help, there will be no way to communicate,” Rivera said.
Nearly 90% of Puerto Ricos were left without power on Monday, according to Poweroutage.us. Officials said it would take days to reconnect the entire island of 3.3 million people.
Many roads were left impassable due to fallen trees and mudslides. Pictures on social media showed submerged cars, people wading in deep water and rescue boats floating in the flooded streets. Only 30% of drinking water customers have service.
Aircrews have rescued about 400 people from flooding in Salinas, a town in the south where rain turned to mist. The southern and southeastern regions were the hardest hit.
Puerto Rico’s power grid remains fragile despite emergency repairs after Maria, according to the Center for the New Economy, a Puerto Rican think tank.
Maria, a Category 5 storm in 2017 that killed more than 3,000 people, left 1.5 million customers without power and destroyed 80% of power lines. Thousands of Puerto Ricans still live under makeshift tarpaulins.
While the National Weather Service raised its hurricane warning for Puerto Rico on Monday, officials warned rain belts could follow the storm system for hundreds of miles.
A 70-year-old man in the northern town of Arecibo is the first known victim in Puerto Rico. Police said he was trying to start his generator when the machine exploded, killing him instantly.
A second man drowned in the afternoon. Police said an 88-year-old woman died of a heart attack in a shelter.
Hundreds of responders were assisting with recovery efforts after Biden declared a state of emergency for the island, allowing FEMA to coordinate disaster relief and provide emergency protection measures.
Pierluisi said the government’s response has been more efficient than during Hurricane Maria, which has become highly politicized with the administration of former President Donald Trump being criticized for being too slow to provide disaster relief. Trump denied it.
The government has not estimated the extent of the damage because it is still in the response period, although the governor said the damage is in the millions.
For most of the five years since Maria struck Puerto Rico, the indebted government and the Electric Power Authority of Puerto Rico were mired in bankruptcy, and the island’s finances were run by a federally appointed supervisory board.
(This story corrects the year Hurricane Jane hit the Dominican Republic until 2004, not 2018, in fifth paragraph)
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Additional reporting by Evelis Rivera in San Juan and Ezequiel Abio Lopez in Santo Domingo; Additional reporting by Tyler Clifford, Rich McKay, Trevor Honeycutt, Micah Rosenberg, Christian Plumb and Tim Reed. Written by Tyler Clifford and Costas Petsas; Editing by Frank McGorty, Mark Porter, Richard Chang and Leslie Adler
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