Dhe hurricane "Fiona" caused severe damage in Puerto Rico: the power went out in the entire US territory, and heavy rain that followed caused flooding and landslides. Governor Pedro Pierluisi said on Sunday evening (local time) that the extent of the damage in several regions was "catastrophic". US President Joe Biden declared a state of emergency.
196,000 people cut off from drinking water supply
With wind speeds of up to 140 kilometers per hour, "Fiona" was as hurricane the lowest category one made landfall in the afternoon. The power grid collapsed on the entire Caribbean island with its more than three million inhabitants, around 196,000 people were cut off from the drinking water supply due to the power failure and the flooding.
Downed power poles and trees blocked roads, and a bridge collapsed in the city of Utuado.
According to Pierluisi, 23 to 33 centimeters of rain fell within five hours. He called on all residents to stay at home or go to emergency shelters.
Although the hurricane is now heading towards the Dominican Republic, the US Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami did not give the all-clear. Persistent rain in the wake of "Fiona" could continue to lead to "life-threatening flash floods," flooding towns and triggering "mudslides and landslides" in higher areas.
For parts of the Dominican Republic, the hurricane center also warned of catastrophic ones floods. The hurricane could intensify further in the next 48 hours.
parts of Puerto Rico have still not recovered from the devastating hurricane Maria five years ago, which killed thousands and left countless more homeless. Back then, "Maria" was already destroying the island's power grid, and attempts to get the problem under control by privatizing it failed: as recently as last April, the power supply failed again for more than a million people.
Fernando Vera and his family are among the residents who are still struggling with the consequences of "Maria". On Sunday, the hurricane stripped away the zinc roof of their Utuado home, which Vera had to replace in 2017. "It's hard for us to grasp that we may have to start all over again," he told NPR.