Política

Fiona wallops Turks and Caicos, Puerto Rico still stunned 

Fiona pre­vi­ous­ly bat­tered the east­ern Caribbean, killing one man in the French ter­ri­to­ry of Guade­loupe when flood­wa­ters washed his home away, of­fi­cials said

By DÁNI­CA CO­TO | AS­SO­CI­AT­ED PRESS

 

SAN JUAN, Puer­to Ri­co (AP) — Hur­ri­cane Fiona blast­ed the Turks and Caicos Is­lands on Tues­day as a Cat­e­go­ry 3 storm af­ter dev­as­tat­ing Puer­to Ri­co, where most peo­ple re­mained with­out elec­tric­i­ty or run­ning wa­ter and res­cuers used heavy equip­ment to lift sur­vivors to safe­ty.

The storm’s eye passed close to Grand Turk, the small British ter­ri­to­ry’s cap­i­tal is­land, on Tues­day morn­ing af­ter the gov­ern­ment im­posed a cur­few and urged peo­ple to flee flood-prone ar­eas. Storm surge could raise wa­ter lev­els there by as much as 5 to 8 feet above nor­mal, ac­cord­ing to the U.S. Na­tion­al Hur­ri­cane Cen­ter.

Late Tues­day morn­ing, the storm was cen­tred about 40 miles (65 kilo­me­tres) north-north­west of that is­land, with hur­ri­cane-force winds ex­tend­ing up to 30 miles (45 kilo­me­tres) from the cen­tre.

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

Fiona had max­i­mum sus­tained winds of 115 mph (185 kph) and was mov­ing north-north­west at 9 mph (15 kph), ac­cord­ing to the Hur­ri­cane Cen­ter, which said the storm is like­ly to strength­en fur­ther in­to a Cat­e­go­ry 4 hur­ri­cane as it ap­proach­es Bermu­da on Fri­day.

It was fore­cast to weak­en be­fore run­ning in­to east­ern­most Cana­da over the week­end.

The broad storm kept drop­ping co­pi­ous rain over 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 black­out — a 70-year-old man was burned to death af­ter he tried to fill his gen­er­a­tor with gaso­line while it was run­ning, of­fi­cials said.

Parts of the is­land had re­ceived more than 25 inch­es (64 cen­time­tres) of rain, and more was falling on Tues­day.

Na­tion­al Guard Brig. Gen. Nar­ciso Cruz de­scribed the re­sult­ing flood­ing as his­toric.

There were com­mu­ni­ties that flood­ed in the storm that didn’t flood un­der Maria,” he said, re­fer­ring to the 2017 hur­ri­cane that caused near­ly 3,000 deaths. “I’ve nev­er seen any­thing like this.”

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

The rivers broke their banks and blan­ket­ed com­mu­ni­ties,” he said.

Some peo­ple were res­cued via kayaks and boats while oth­ers nes­tled in­to the mas­sive shov­el of a dig­ger and were lift­ed to high­er ground.

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

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

The blow from Fiona was made more dev­as­tat­ing be­cause Puer­to Ri­co has yet to re­cov­er from Hur­ri­cane Maria, which de­stroyed the pow­er grid in 2017. Five years lat­er, more than 3,000 homes on the is­land are still cov­ered by blue tarps.

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

Fiona trig­gered a black­out when it hit Puer­to Ri­co’s south­west cor­ner on Sun­day, the an­niver­sary of Hur­ri­cane Hugo, which slammed in­to the is­land in 1989 as a Cat­e­go­ry 3 storm.

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

Wa­ter ser­vice was cut to more than 837,000 cus­tomers — two thirds of the to­tal on the is­land — be­cause of tur­bid wa­ter at fil­tra­tion plants or lack of pow­er, of­fi­cials said.

Fiona was not ex­pect­ed to threat­en the U.S. main­land.

In the Do­mini­can Re­pub­lic, au­thor­i­ties re­port­ed one death: a man hit by a falling tree. The storm dis­placed more than 12,400 peo­ple and cut off at least two com­mu­ni­ties.

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

The Do­mini­can pres­i­dent, Luis Abi­nad­er, said au­thor­i­ties would need sev­er­al days to as­sess the storm’s ef­fects.

Fiona pre­vi­ous­ly bat­tered the east­ern Caribbean, killing one man in the French ter­ri­to­ry of Guade­loupe when flood­wa­ters washed his home away, of­fi­cials said.