Hurricane Fiona, which strengthened into a Category 4 storm Wednesday, was headed for Bermuda after wreaking havoc on Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, killing at least four people.
Fiona dumped 6 to 20 inches of rain on Puerto Rico and parts of the island remained without electricity or running water Wednesday as residents struggled to clear their homes and streets of debris. Lingering rainfall Tuesday also threatened additional flooding and mudslides. Rescuers used heavy equipment, kayaks and boats to carry survivors to safety.
At least four people have died across the Caribbean, said Keith Turi, FEMA assistant administrator for recovery.
“We have suffered so much,” Rafael Joglar, 68, a biology professor based in San Juan, told USA TODAY, adding that the island has yet to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Maria five years ago. Only 26% of the island had power as of Wednesday morning, three days after it hit the island.
Here’s the latest:
Path: Hurricane Fiona strengthens to Category 4
Now a Category 4 storm, Hurricane Fiona was located about 700 miles southwest of the island of Bermuda on Wednesday morning with maximum sustained winds of 130 mph, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The storm is expected to strengthen through Wednesday night and move north at 8 mph through the evening.
- BERMUDA: A hurricane watch and tropical storm watch was in effect for Bermuda on Wednesday. Fiona is expected to bring tropical storm conditions to the island late Thursday or early Friday.
- TURKS AND CAICOS ISLANDS: Gusty winds are expected to continue over parts of Turks and Caicos islands Wednesday morning as the storm moves towards Bermuda. With an additional 1 to 3 inches of rain expected, flooding may continue in the area.
Puerto Rican governor requests major disaster declaration
Govt. Pedro Pierluisi requested a major disaster declaration Tuesday, calling the damage “catastrophic.” Meanwhile, the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced it will send hundreds of personnel to aid local response efforts, while the US Department of Health and Human Services declared a public health emergency.
The island experienced widespread landslides, damaged homes, washed-out bridges and downed power lines as torrential rains and flooding engulfed the island.
Power company officials initially said it would take a few days for electricity to be fully restored, but then appeared to backtrack late Tuesday night. Only 26% had power as of Wednesday morning, three days after it hit the island.
Damage in Dominican Republic, Turks and Caicos
In the Dominican Republic, at least two people died after a 68-year-old man was struck by a falling tree and an 18-year-old girl was struck by a falling electrical post. Fiona left over 400,000 homes without power, blocked highways and forced over 1,550 people into government shelters.
In the Turks and Caicos Islands, officials imposed a curfew and urged people to leave flood-prone regions as Fiona approached Tuesday. The area saw minimal damage and no reported deaths. But telecommunications on Grand Turk, the capital island of the Turks and Caicos, were severely affected, and the archipelago saw a handful of downed trees and electric posts.
As Hurricane Fiona bore down on Puerto Rico this week, residents of the US territory in the Caribbean did not have to look far for reminders of the last great storm to hit the area, exactly five years ago: Blue tarps are draped over thousands of homes, structures in need of repair still dot the island and power outages remain persistent.
The deadliest natural disaster in Puerto Rico in 100 years, Hurricane Maria killed roughly 3,000 people and destroyed the electrical system. Although Fiona made landfall Category 1 storm, the damage it wrought even before it struck – including the loss of power and potable water – served as a grim reminder of why, for many of the island’s residents, Maria marked a distinct before and after in their lives. Read more times.
— Amanda Pérez Pintado, Grace Hauck and Adrianna Rodriguez, USA TODAY
Contributing: The Associated Press; Grace Hauck and Chris Kenning, USA TODAY
Contact News Now Reporter Christine Fernando at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter at @christinetfern.