Premier Washington Misick urged people to evacuate. “Storms are unpredictable,” he said in a statement from London, where he attended Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral. “You must therefore take every precaution to ensure your safety.”
Fiona had maximum sustained winds of 115 mph (185 km/h) and was moving north-northwest at 9 mph (15 km/h), according to the Hurricane Center, which said the storm was likely to develop. become a Category 4 hurricane as it approaches Bermuda on Friday.
Rain was still battering parts of Puerto Rico on Tuesday, where the sounds of people scraping, sweeping and spraying their homes and streets echoed through rural areas as historic floodwaters began to recede.
In the central mountain town of Cayey, where the Plato River overflowed and the torrent of brown water consumed cars and homes, overturned dressers, beds and large refrigerators littered people’s yards on Tuesday.
“Puerto Rico is not prepared for this, or anything,” said Mariangy Hernández, a 48-year-old housewife, who said she doubted the government would help her community of some 300 people to term, despite ongoing efforts to clean up the streets and restore power. “It’s only for a few days and later they forget about us.”
She and her husband stood in line waiting for the National Guard to clear a landslide in their hilly neighborhood.
“Is it open? Is it open?” asked a driver, worried that the road had been completely closed.
Other drivers asked the National Guard if they could drive past their homes to help cut down trees or clear clumps of mud and debris.
The cleanup efforts came on the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Maria, which hit as a Category 4 storm in 2017 and knocked out power for a year in parts of Cayey.
Jeannette Soto, a 34-year-old manicurist, feared it would take a long time for crews to restore power because a landslide swept away the main lamp post in the area.
“This is the first time this has happened,” she said of the landslides. “We didn’t think the magnitude of the rain was going to be so great.”
Governor Pedro Pierluisi called for a major disaster declaration on Tuesday and said it would take at least a week before authorities had an estimate of the damage Fiona caused.
He said the rain damage was “catastrophic”, particularly in the central, southern and southeastern parts of the island.
“The impact caused by the hurricane was devastating for many people,” he said.
The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency visited Puerto Rico on Tuesday as the agency announced it was sending hundreds more people to bolster local response efforts.
The broad storm continued to bring heavy rain to the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, where a 58-year-old man died after police said he was swept away by a river in the central mountain town of Comerio .
Another death was linked to a power outage – a 70-year-old man was burned to death after trying to fill his generator with gasoline while it was running, officials said.
Parts of the island had received more than 25 inches (64 centimeters) of rain and others were falling on Tuesday.
Brigadier of the National Guard. General Narciso Cruz called the flood historic.
“There were communities that were flooded by the storm that weren’t flooded under Maria,” he said, referring to the 2017 hurricane that killed nearly 3,000 people. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Cruz said 670 people were rescued in Puerto Rico, including 19 people at a retirement home in Cayey that was in danger of collapsing.
“Rivers have broken their banks and covered communities,” he said.
Some people were rescued via kayaks and boats while others nestled in the huge shovel of a backhoe and were lifted to higher ground.
He lamented that some people initially refused to leave their homes, adding that he understood why.
“It’s human nature,” he said. “But when they saw their lives were in danger, they agreed to leave.”
Fiona’s blow was made more devastating as Puerto Rico has yet to recover from Hurricane Maria, which knocked out the power grid in 2017. Five years later, more than 3,000 homes on the island still stand covered with blue tarpaulins.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on Tuesday he would push for the federal government to cover 100% of disaster response costs — instead of the usual 75% — as part of a declaration of emergency in the event of a disaster.
“We have to make sure that this time Puerto Rico has absolutely everything they need, as soon as possible, for as long as they need it,” he said.
Authorities said Tuesday that at least 1,220 people and more than 70 pets remained in shelters across the island.
Fiona triggered a power outage when it hit the southwest corner of Puerto Rico on Sunday, the anniversary of Hurricane Hugo, which hit the island in 1989 as a Category 3 storm.
As of Tuesday morning, authorities said they had restored power to more than 300,000 of the island’s 1.47 million customers. Puerto Rico’s governor has warned it could take days before everyone has power.
Water service has been cut to more than 760,000 customers – two-thirds of the total on the island – due to cloudy water at filter plants or lack of power, officials said.
Fiona was expected to weaken before colliding in far eastern Canada over the weekend. We did not expect it to threaten the American continent.
In the Dominican Republic, authorities have reported two deaths: a 68-year-old man struck by a falling tree and an 18-year-old girl who was struck by a falling utility pole while riding a motorcycle . The storm forced more than 1,550 people to seek shelter in government shelters and left more than 406,500 homes without power.
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.
Fiona has already beaten the eastern Caribbean, killing a man in the French territory of Guadeloupe when floodwaters swept away his home, officials said.