San Juan (AFP) – Hurricane Fiona slammed into Bermuda on Wednesday as a powerful Category 4 storm as Puerto Rico struggled to restore power and water after a devastating blow.
The US National Hurricane Center (NHC) said Fiona is expected to approach Bermuda, a British territory of about 64,000 people, late Thursday.
In Washington, the State Department advised Americans to reconsider travel to Bermuda and allowed family members of US government officials to leave.
“U.S. citizens in Bermuda who plan to leave the island should now depart prior to the arrival of Hurricane Fiona,” a travel advisory said.
Fiona was upgraded overnight to a Category 4 hurricane, the second highest on the Saffir-Simpson scale.
The NHC said the storm grabbed maximum winds of 130 miles per hour (210 kilometers per hour) as it moved north toward Bermuda at about eight miles per hour.
“On the forecast range, the center of Fiona will move further away from the Turks and Caicos Islands today, approaching Bermuda late Thursday and Atlantic Canada late Friday,” the NHC said.
“A storm surge will result in increased water levels along the coast of Bermuda,” it said. “Close to shore, the surf is accompanied by large and destructive waves.”
Fiona has left a trail of devastation in the Caribbean, killing four people in Puerto Rico, according to a US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) official quoted by the Washington Post.
One death was reported in the French overseas department of Guadeloupe and another in the Dominican Republic.
FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell is in Puerto Rico and has been touring flood-affected areas with US Territory Governor Pedro Pierluisi.
‘Will not stop’
FEMA said it is sending hundreds of additional personnel to Puerto Rico to help with relief efforts on the island, which has been suffering from widespread power outages.
Pierluisi said the storm caused catastrophic damage on the island of three million, with some areas receiving more than 30 inches of rain.
US President Joe Biden has declared a state of emergency in Puerto Rico, which is still struggling to recover from Hurricane Maria five years ago.
LUMA, the Puerto Rico energy company, said more than 2,000 utility workers were assessing damage and working to restore electricity to hundreds of thousands of customers.
“LUMA and all of our partners will not stop until every customer is restored and power is restored to the entire grid,” Abner Gomez, public safety manager, said in a statement.
The storm also left around hundreds of thousands of people in Puerto Rico without drinking water due to power outages and flooded rivers, officials said.
In the Dominican Republic, President Luis Abinader declared three eastern provinces disaster areas: La Altagracia – home to the popular resort town of Punta Cana – El Seibo and Hato Mayor.
Later that year, the double hit of Hurricanes Irma and Maria added to the misery and devastated the power grid on the island, which has suffered from major infrastructure problems for years.
The power grid was privatized in June 2021 to solve the problem of power outages, but the problem persisted and the entire island lost power earlier this year.
© 2022 AFP