Fiona swipes Turks and Caicos, Puerto Rico faces a major clean-up

KEY, Puerto Rico (AP) — Hurricane Fiona blasted the Turks and Caicos Islands as a Category 3 hurricane on Tuesday after devastated Puerto Rico, where most people remained without power or running water and rescuers. used heavy equipment to rescue the survivors.

The storm was seen near Grand Turk, the capital island of the small British territory, on Tuesday morning after the government imposed a curfew and urged people to flee flood-prone areas. According to the US National Hurricane Center, due to the storm, the water level there can rise by 5 to 8 feet above normal.

Late Tuesday afternoon, the storm was centered about 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of North Caicos Island, with hurricane-force winds extending up to 30 miles (45 kilometers) from the center.

Premier Washington Missick urged people to evacuate. “The storm is unpredictable,” he said in a statement from London, where he attended Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral. “Therefore you must take every precaution to ensure your safety.”

According to the Hurricane Center, Fiona had maximum sustained winds of 115 mph (185 kph) and was moving to the north-northwest at 8 mph (13 kph), which said that The storm is likely to strengthen into a Category 4 hurricane as it approaches Bermuda. Friday.

On Tuesday, rain was still continuing in parts of Puerto Rico, with the sounds of people scraping, sweeping and sprinkling on homes and streets in rural areas as historic floodwaters receded.

In the central mountain town of Cay, where the Plato River eroded its banks and a brown torrent of water consumed cars and homes, overturned dressers, beds and large refrigerators were scattered in people’s yards on Tuesday.

“Puerto Rico isn’t ready for this, or anything,” said housewife Mariangi Hernandez, 48, who said she doubted the government would help her community of about 300 in the long term, given the ongoing efforts to Despite. Roads and electricity restored. “It’s only for a few days and afterward they forget about us.”

She and her husband stood in a queue waiting for the National Guard to clear the landslide in their mountainous area.

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“Is it open? Is it open?” A driver worried and asked if the road was completely closed.

Other drivers asked the National Guard if they could swing by their homes to help cut down trees or clear clumps of mud and debris.

The cleanup efforts coincided with the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Maria, which struck as a Category 4 hurricane in 2017 and knocked out power for a year in parts of Cay.

Janet Soto, a 34-year-old manicurist, worried it would take a long time for workers to restore power as a landslide swept away the neighborhood’s main lighting outpost.

“This is the first time this has happened,” she said of the landslide. “We didn’t think the magnitude of the rain would be so great.”

Governor Pedro Pierlusi requested a major disaster declaration on Tuesday and said it would be at least a week before officials estimate the damage Fiona has caused.

He said the damage caused by the rain was “devastating”, especially in the central, south and southeast regions of the island.

“The effects caused by the storm have been devastating for many people,” he said.

The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency traveled to Puerto Rico on Tuesday as the agency announced it was sending hundreds of additional personnel to boost local response efforts.

The widespread storm was dropping heavy rain on the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, where a 58-year-old man was killed after police said he was washed away by a river in the central mountain town of Comário.

Another death was linked to an electrical blackout – a 70-year-old man was burned after trying to fill his generator with gasoline, officials said.

Parts of the island received more than 25 inches (64 cm) of rain, and it was raining more on Tuesday.

National Guard Brigadier General Narciso Cruz described the floods as historic.

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

Cruz said 670 people had been rescued in Puerto Rico, including 19 at a retirement home in Caye that was in danger of collapse.

“Rivers crisscross their banks and blanket the communities,” he said.

Some were rescued via kayaks and boats, while others were hauled into the excavator’s large shovel and carried to higher ground.

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

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

The blow from Fiona was made more devastating as Puerto Rico had not yet recovered from Hurricane Maria.Which destroyed the power grid in 2017. Five years later, more than 3,000 homes on the island are still covered with blue wire.

US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on Tuesday he would pressure the federal government to cover 100% of disaster response costs – instead of the usual 75% – as part of an emergency disaster declaration.

“We need to make sure that this time around, Puerto Rico has it as quickly as possible, for as long as they need it,” he said.

At least 1,220 people and more than 70 pets remained in shelters, officials said Tuesday across the island.

Fiona began a blackout as it struck the southwest corner of Puerto Rico on Sunday, the anniversary of Hurricane Hugo, which slammed into the island in 1989 as a Category 3 hurricane.

As of Tuesday morning, officials said they had restored power to about 300,000 of the island’s 1.47 million customers. Puerto Rico’s governor warned that it could take days for everyone to get electricity.

Water service was cut for more than 760,000 customers – two thirds of the total on the island – due to dirty water at filtration plants or a lack of electricity, officials said.

Fiona was forecast to weaken before running into eastern Canada over the weekend. This was not expected to threaten the US mainland.

In the Dominican Republic, authorities reported two deaths: a 68-year-old man struck by a falling tree and an 18-year-old girl who fell from an electric pole while riding a motorcycle. The storm forced more than 1,550 people to seek safety in government shelters and left more than 406,500 homes without electricity.

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

Dominican President Luis Abinador said officials would need several days to assess the storm’s effects.

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

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Associated Press reporters Martin Adams in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and MariCarmen Rivera Sánchez in San Juan, Puerto Rico contributed.

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