Hurricane Fiona leaves trail of destruction in Puerto Rico

Islanders are facing power cuts and extensive damage due to flooding, landslides and 80 mph winds. The Dominican Republic is now on alert

Hurricane Fiona slammed Puerto Rico on Sunday.Photo: AFP/PUERTO RICO FIREFIGHTING DEPARTMENT | Video: Reuters

Hurricane Fiona pummeled Puerto Rico on Sunday, knocking out the island’s power grid and causing a general blackout. Luma Energy, the operator in charge of managing the island’s power grid, warned in a statement that restoring full service could take several days.

No fatalities had been reported as of Sunday night, but there was extensive damage to roads and homes, and a bridge had collapsed in Utuado, a mountain town in the central part of the island. Evacuations were taking place in Caguas and Toa Baja.

Nelson Cirino outside his bedroom after Hurricane Fiona tore the roof off his house in Loiza, Puerto Rico.
Nelson Cirino outside his bedroom after Hurricane Fiona tore the roof off his house in Loiza, Puerto Rico.Alejandro Granadillo (AP)

At a news conference on Sunday, Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Pierluisi described the damage from Fiona, which reached wind speeds of 80 mph (130 km/h), as “catastrophic,” and warned that only first responders should venture outside.

US President Joe Biden on Sunday declared a state of emergency for Puerto Rico, freeing up funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and authorizing this agency to coordinate disaster relief.

The devastation comes two days before the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Maria, which caused nearly 3,000 deaths and widespread destruction on the island in 2017. Since then, the electricity service has been failing frequently, drawing customer complaints and slowing down economic recovery.

The tropical cyclone has moved on to the Dominican Republic, where it made landfall at 3.35am local time, according to the United States National Hurricane Center (NHC). Torrential rains and mudslides were expected there as well.

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