Monday, October 3, 2022

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Hurricane Fiona hits Dominican Republic while Puerto Rico falters

The Dominican Republic is battered by strong winds and torrential rains, while Puerto Rico copes with “catastrophic” damage.

Hurricane Fiona has made landfall in the Dominican Republic, a day after the storm disrupted power across Puerto Rico and caused what the island’s governor described as “catastrophic” damage.

The Dominican Republic was hit by “extremely heavy rainfall” and winds up to 90 mph on Monday, said Eric Blake of the US National Hurricane Center (NHC).

Juan Salas, director of the country’s civil defense agency, said about 800 people had been evacuated from high-risk areas and from nearby rivers and ravines in rural communities in the east.

Up to 15 inches (380 mm) of rain has been forecast for the eastern Dominican Republic, where authorities have told most people to stay home and banned use of beaches.

Juan Manuel Mendez, director of the Dominican Emergency Operations Center, warned that the rain could continue for two days, although the hurricane’s eye is expected to leave Dominican territory later Monday.

Meanwhile, no deaths were reported in Puerto Rico, where the hurricane made landfall on Sunday, but authorities said it was too early to know the full extent of damage from the sweeping storm, which was still expected to cause he would unleash torrential rains over United States territory.

“The damage we are seeing is catastrophic,” said Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Pierluisi.

US President Joe Biden on Sunday passed an emergency declaration for Puerto Rico, authorizing the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to coordinate disaster relief and provide emergency response response.

Puerto Rico’s power grid remains vulnerable after Hurricane Maria caused the largest blackout in US history in September 2017.

In this Category 5 hurricane, which killed more than 3,000 people, 1.5 million customers lost power, with 80 percent of power lines down. Thousands of Puerto Ricans still live under makeshift tents.

Up to 30 inches (760 mm) of rain has been forecast for the southern region of Puerto Rico.

“It’s important for people to understand that this isn’t over,” said Ernesto Morales, a weather forecaster with the San Juan National Weather Service. He said the flooding had reached “historic proportions” with authorities evacuating or rescuing hundreds of people across the island.

Nearly 90 percent of Puerto Rico was without power as of Monday, according to Poweroutage.us website, which tracks outages. Officials said it would take days to reconnect the entire island of 3.3 million people.

Before dawn on Monday, authorities drove a boat through the flooded streets of the northern coastal city of Catano, using a megaphone to alert people that pumps had collapsed and urged them to evacuate as soon as possible.

At least 1,300 people spent the night in temporary shelters across the island, according to authorities.

Brown water poured through streets and into homes and engulfed an airport runway in southern Puerto Rico.

Fiona also ripped asphalt from roads and washed away a bridge in the central mountain town of Utuado, which police say was built by the National Guard after Hurricane Maria.

The hurricane also ripped off the roofs of homes, including that of Nelson Cirino in the northern coastal town of Loiza.

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