Hurricane Fiona bore down on the Dominican Republic yesterday after knocking out the power grid and unleashing floods and landslides in Puerto Rico, where the governor said the damage was “catastrophic”.
No deaths have been reported, but authorities in the US territory said it was too early to estimate the damage from a storm that was still forecast to unleash torrential rain across Puerto Rico yesterday.
Up to 30 inches (76 centimetres) was forecast for Puerto Rico’s southern region.
“It’s important people understand that this is not over,” said Ernesto Morales, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in San Juan.
He said flooding reached “historic levels”, with authorities evacuating or rescuing hundreds of people across the island.
“The damages that we are seeing are catastrophic,” said Governor Pedro Pierluisi.
Before dawn, authorities in a boat travelled through the flooded streets of the north coastal town of Catano and used a megaphone to alert people that the pumps had collapsed and urged them to evacuate as soon as possible.
Brown water rushed through streets, into homes and even consumed a runway airport in southern Puerto Rico.
Fiona also ripped up 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 Hurricane Maria hit in 2017 as a Category 4 storm.
The storm also ripped off the roofs of several homes, including that of Nelson Cirino in the northern coastal town of Loiza.
“I was sleeping and saw when the corrugated metal flew off,” he said as he observed how the rain drenched his belongings.
Ada Vivian Roman, a 21-year-old photography student, said the storm knocked down trees and fences in her hometown of Toa Alta.
“I’m actually very anxious because it’s a really slow-moving hurricane,” she said.
Fiona was centred 15 miles (25km) west-southwest of Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, with maximum sustained winds of 90 mph (150 kph) on Sunday night, according to the US National Hurricane Centre. It was moving to the north-west at 8mph.
CREDIT: Alan Simpson