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Fiona dumps more rain on Puerto Rico; troops save hundreds – The Denver Post

By MARICARMEN RIVERA SANCHEZ and DÁNICA COTO

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Hurricane Fiona dumped more rain on Puerto Rico on Monday, a day after the storm knocked out power and water to most of the island, and troops of the National Guard rescued hundreds of stranded people.

The governor warned it could take days to turn the lights back on.

Fiona’s blow was made more devastating as Puerto Rico has yet to recover from Hurricane Maria, which killed nearly 3,000 people and knocked out the power grid in 2017. Five years later, more than 3,000 houses on the island are still covered with blue tarps.

The storm ripped pavement from roads, ripped roofs off and sent torrents pouring into homes. It also destroyed a bridge and flooded two airports.

Authorities reported two deaths from the hurricane – a Puerto Rican man who was swept away by a flooded river and a person in the Dominican Republic who was hit by a falling tree.

The storm was still expected to dump up to 15 inches (38 centimeters) of rain in some places as it moved away from US territory that is home to 3.2 million people.

Forecasts called for the storm to develop into a major Category 3 or greater hurricane. It was about to pass close to the Turks and Caicos Islands on Tuesday and should not threaten the American continent.

A death in Puerto Rico has been linked to the blackout – a 70-year-old man who was burned to death after trying to fill his generator with gasoline while it was running, officials said.

Governor Pedro Pierluisi declined to say how long it would take to fully restore power, but said for most customers it would be “a matter of days”.

Since the start of the storm, National Guard troops have rescued more than 900 people, General José Reyes told a press conference.

Meanwhile, in the Dominican Republic, authorities closed ports and beaches and told most people not to work. Nearly 800 people were evacuated to safer locations and more than 700 were in shelters, officials said.

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

Dominican President Luis Abinader said authorities would need several days to assess the effects of the storm.

Back in Puerto Rico, the National Weather Service office said flash flooding was occurring in south-central parts of the island and tweeted, “MOVE TO HIGHER TERRAIN IMMEDIATELY!

Up to 22 inches (56 centimeters) of rain fell in parts of Puerto Rico, and forecasters said an additional 4 to 8 inches could fall as the storm moves away, with even more possibilities in some places. .

“It’s important for people to understand that it’s not over,” said Ernesto Morales, meteorologist with the San Juan Weather Service.

He said flooding had reached “historic levels” as authorities evacuated or rescued hundreds of people in Puerto Rico.

“The damage we are seeing is catastrophic,” Pierluisi said.

Water service has been cut to more than 837,000 customers – two-thirds of the total on the island – due to cloudy water at filter plants or lack of power, officials said.

Before dawn on Monday, authorities in a boat cruised through the flooded streets of the north coast town of Catano and used a megaphone to alert people that the pumps had collapsed, urging them to evacuate as soon as possible .

Authorities said at least 1,300 people had spent the night in shelters across the island.

Brown water poured into streets and homes and shut down airports in Ponce and Mayaguez.

The system also ripped asphalt from roads and washed away a bridge in the central mountain town of Utuado that police say was installed by the National Guard after Maria was hit by a Category 4 storm.

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

“I was sleeping and saw when the corrugated iron blew away,” he said, watching the rain soak his things and the wind whipping his colorful curtains through the air.

After roaring over the Dominican Republic, Fiona moved into the open Atlantic, where she needed to strengthen, according to the National Hurricane Center.

On Monday evening, it was centered about 130 miles (205 kilometers) southeast of Grand Turk Island and tracking northwest at 10 mph (17 kph), with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph (165 kph).

Tropical storm-force winds extended 140 miles (220 kilometers) from the center.

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

Fiona has previously battered the Eastern Caribbean, killing a man in the French territory of Guadeloupe when floodwaters swept away his home, officials said.

The system hit Puerto Rico on the anniversary of Hurricane Hugo, which struck the island in 1989 as a Category 3 storm.

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Coto reported from Havana.

denverpost

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