Hurricane Fiona has bombarded the Turks and Caicos Islands as a Category 3 storm, after carving a path of devastation through the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico – where most people were left without electricity or running water.
The eye of the storm passed close to Grand Turk, the capital of the tiny British territory, on Tuesday morning after the government imposed a curfew and urged people to flee flood-prone areas. Hurricane-force winds extended up to 30 miles (45 km) from the center.
“Storms are unpredictable,” the area’s prime minister, Washington Misick, said in a statement from London, where he attended Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral. “You must therefore take all precautions to ensure your safety.”
Fiona had maximum sustained winds of 115 mph (185 kph) and moved north-northwest at 9 mph (15 kph), according to the Hurricane Center, which said the storm is likely to progress further into a category hurricane. 4, as it approaches Bermuda on Friday.
It was predicted to weaken before invading eastern Canada over the weekend.
The broad storm continued to rain heavily over 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 Comerío.
Another death was linked to a power outage – a 70-year-old man was burned after trying to fill his generator with petrol while it was running, officials said.
More than 64 cm of rain had fallen on parts of the island and more fell on Tuesday.
Brigadier General Narciso Cruz of the National Guard described the floods as historic.
“There were communities that flooded in the storm that didn’t flood under Maria,” he said, referring to the 2017 hurricane that killed nearly 3,000. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Cruz said 670 people have been rescued in Puerto Rico, including 19 people in a retirement home in the northern mountain town of Cayey that was in danger of collapse.
“The rivers broke their banks and blanketed communities,” he said.
Some people were rescued via kayaks and boats, while others settled into the huge shovel of a digger and were lifted to higher ground.
He regretted that some people initially refused to leave their homes, adding that he understood why.
“It’s human nature,” he said. “But when they saw that their lives were in danger, they agreed to leave.”
Fiona’s blow was made even more devastating as Puerto Rico has yet to recover from Hurricane Maria, which devastated the electrical grid in 2017. Five years later, more than 3,000 houses on the island are still covered in blue sails.
Authorities said Monday there were at least 2,300 people and some 250 pets in shelters on the island.
Fiona caused a blackout as it hit the southwest corner of Puerto Rico on Sunday, the anniversary of Hurricane Hugo, which hit the island as a Category 3 storm in 1989.
On Tuesday morning, authorities said they had restored power to more than 285,000 of the island’s 1.47 million customers. Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Pierluisi warned it could take days before everyone has electricity.
Water supplies were cut to more than 837,000 customers — two-thirds of the island’s total — due to cloudy water at filter installations or lack of power, officials said.
Authorities in the Dominican Republic reported one death: a man hit by a falling tree. The storm displaced more than 12,400 people and cut off at least two communities.
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.
Dominican President Luis Abinader said authorities will need several days to assess the impact of the storm.
Fiona has previously assaulted the eastern Caribbean, killing a man in the French territory of Guadeloupe when floods washed away his home, officials said.