Hurricane Fiona became more powerful on Tuesday as it rolled past Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic after slamming the islands with up to 12 inches of rain, causing overwhelming flooding, mudslides and leaving much of the islands in ruins.
More than 80% of Puerto Rico was without power on Tuesday, more than 24 hours after the storm knocked out the entire electrical system. The water supply was cut to more than 837,000 customers — two-thirds of the total on the island, officials said.
In the Dominican Republic, more than 1 million people were without running water and 700,000 homes and businesses were without power, the national Emergency Operations Center said.
At least three deaths were reported, two in Puerto Rico and one in the Dominican Republic.
PICTURES:Hurricane Fiona floods houses and streets in Puerto Rico
HOW TO HELP:A Look at Mutual Aid, Nonprofits to Help Support Puerto Ricans
►More rain was forecast during the week, and conditions were not expected to improve greatly. “Catastrophic and life-threatening sudden, urban and moderate to large river floods, as well as mudslides, are likely through Tuesday in southern and eastern Puerto Rico due to rainfall from Hurricane Fiona,” the National Weather Service warned.
►Thousands of displaced people in Puerto Rico: Authorities said at least 2,300 people and some 250 pets were in shelters across the island.
►in Grand TurkHurricane conditions slammed the capital of the small British territory of the Turks and Caicos. The government imposed a curfew and urged people to flee flood-prone areas.
►Threat to the American mainland? Forecasters say the hurricane is not expected to threaten the United States.
Here’s what we know:
Hurricane Fiona strengthens into Category 3 storm
Fiona, which has increased in strength overnight to a Category 3 storm, is expected to intensify further in the coming days, the weather service says:
- Centered near Grand Turk Island: Fiona, with sustained 115 mph winds, was moving north-northwest at 9 mph and was about 40 miles north of Grand Turk Island.
- Turks and Caicos Islands: Hurricane conditions developed over the Turks and Caicos Islands and should continue this morning. Heavy rains will continue this afternoon with continued life-threatening flooding, the National Weather Service said.
- In the Bahamas: Tropical storm conditions should spread across parts of the southeastern Bahamas throughout the day.
Early toll in Dominican Republic: 1 dead, 12,000 displaced
More than 1,000 residents of the Dominican Republic lived in shelters on Tuesday after Fiona ripped through the country. More than 1 million of the country’s nearly 12 million people were without running water and more than 700,000 homes and businesses were without power, the national Emergency Operations Center said.
One death was reported, 12,485 people were displaced, 3,000 homes were damaged or destroyed and four bridges collapsed.
Juan Manuel Mendez, director of the organization, said: Dominican Today, Isidro Odalis Smith, 68, was crushed by a falling tree in the northern city of Nagua in Maria Trinidad Sanchez province.
President Luis Abinader promised to restore drinking water and electricity supplies to the affected communities “as soon as possible”. He said authorities will need several days to assess the effects of the storm.
Officials closed ports and beaches and told most people to stay home from work. The hurricane caused several highways to be blocked and a tourist pier in the town of Miches was badly damaged by high waves. At least four international airports were closed, officials said.
how you can help
Activists emphasize the importance of supporting local organizations and grassroots mutual aid groups that provide aid to fellow community members in Puerto Rico. Multiple organizations provide essential assistance to residents – including solar lighting, generators, essential supplies and food.
To help Puerto Ricans and others in the Caribbean recover from the lingering effects of Hurricane Fiona, here’s a list of some nonprofits and mutual aid funds you can support.
More rain for overwhelmed Puerto Rico
The weather service warned that another 1 to 4 inches of rain will fall over much of Puerto Rico on Wednesday morning. Storm totals have reached 12 to 20 inches in most areas, but some locations have seen up to 35 inches.
“Localized additional flashes and urban flooding are possible in southern parts of Puerto Rico,” the weather service said.
The hurricane made landfall on the southwest coast of Puerto Rico as a Category 1 storm on Sunday afternoon. Fiona made landfall on the east coast of the Dominican Republic early Monday.
In hard-hit Salinas, a community of about 30,000 people on Puerto Rico’s southern coast, Mayor Karlyn Bonilla estimated 2,500 people saw their homes flooded. The National Guard led a team of rescuers who performed more than 500 water rescues, and Bonilla expressed gratitude for life-saving efforts “that jeopardized their own rescue.”
“We had to run a massive operation to rescue people who were in completely flooded areas,” Bonilla said. “Refugees tell us that they have lived in some communities for 60 years and that an event of this magnitude has never happened before.”
Minerva Monge, 70, was rescued by the National Guard along with her husband after water reached their knees in their home.
“What I hope is that everything calms down, the place dries up and we can return,” she said.
AccuWeather estimated the economic impact on Fiona’s island at about $10 billion. President Joe Biden, who had previously declared a state of emergency to release federal aid to Puerto Rico, said he met with Governor Pedro Pierluisi late Monday. Biden promised to increase support “significantly” in the coming days.
“Jill and I keep the people of Puerto Rico in our prayers as Hurricane Fiona sweeps across your beautiful island,” Biden tweeted. “We’re here for you, and together we’ll get through this.”
Fiona hit Puerto Rico for nearly five years to the day after Hurricane Maria, a Category 5 storm with winds in excess of 170 mph, swept across the island.
Maria’s death toll reached nearly 3,000 people, destroying the electrical grid and destroying tens of thousands of homes, thousands of which are still covered with tarps.
The devastation wrought across the island included a bridge in the Puerto Rican town of Utuado that was built after Hurricane Maria. The bridge over the Guaonica River in the central mountain area was destroyed on Sunday, the same day Fiona made landfall on the island.
United States House Representative Roberto Lefranc Fortuño posted video of the bridge, known as PR-123, which tears apart and washes away. People can be heard screaming amid the loud clatter of metal as a man stands in disbelief with his hands on his head.
IN MEXICO:Major earthquake strikes on September 19 for third time since 1985
Contributions: The Associated Press