Hurricane Fiona slammed into the Dominican Republic on Monday after knocking out power and causing widespread flooding in Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Pierluisi said the storm had caused “catastrophic” damage in the US island territory with some areas receiving more than 30 inches (76 centimeters) of rain.
Fiona made landfall on the eastern edge of the Dominican Republic early Monday packing maximum sustained winds of 90 miles per hour (144 kilometers per hour), the US National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.
“Life-threatening flash and urban flooding is likely for eastern portions of the Dominican Republic,” it said.
The Dominican authorities did not provide any immediate updates on the toll from the storm but local press reports said some coastal towns in the east had experienced flooding with roads washed out.
Ahead of Fiona’s arrival in the Dominican Republic, President Luis Abinader suspended work on Monday and the island placed 13 of its 32 provinces on red alert.
In Puerto Rico, Fiona caused landslides, blocked roads and toppled trees, power lines and bridges, Pierluisi said.
Fernando Vera, a resident of the town of Utuado, told US broadcaster NPR his family has never fully recovered from the devastation of Hurricane Maria five years ago.
“We still struggle from the consequences of Maria and it’s kind of difficult knowing we’re going to probably have to start over again,” Vera said.
The governor said Fiona had caused “unprecedented” flooding, including in areas never previously affected.
“Unfortunately, we expect more rain throughout the island today and tomorrow,” he said.
Most of Puerto Rico, an island of three million people, was without power, but electricity had been restored for about 100,000 customers on Monday, the governor said.
The hurricane has also left around 196,000 people without drinking water as a result of power outages and flooded rivers, officials said.
– ‘Start over again’ –
Fiona made landfall in Puerto Rico on Sunday afternoon as a Category One hurricane, at the lowest end of the five-tier Saffir-Simpson scale.
The storm has caused one fatality — a man who was killed after his house was swept away by flooding in the French overseas department of Guadeloupe, when Fiona was still classified as a tropical storm.
US President Joe Biden declared a state of emergency for Puerto Rico on Sunday, authorizing the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide assistance.
The former Spanish colony became a US territory in the late 19th century before gaining the status of associated free state in 1950.
After years of financial woes and recession, Puerto Rico in 2017 declared the largest bankruptcy ever by a local US administration.
Later that year, a double hit from hurricanes Irma and Maria added to the misery, devastating the electrical grid on the island — which has suffered from major infrastructure problems for years.
The grid was privatized in June 2021 in an effort to resolve the problem of blackouts, but the issue has persisted, and the entire island lost power earlier this year.