Hurricane Fiona slams the Turks and Caicos Islands as a Category 3 storm and heads for Bermuda

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (Reuters) – Hurricane Fiona hit the Turks and Caicos Islands on Tuesday, dumping torrential rain and causing flooding in the Caribbean archipelago after cutting a path of destruction through the Dominican Republic. and Puerto Rico.

US officials said the storm killed four people in Puerto Rico. A fifth person was killed in Guadeloupe earlier this week.

US Health Secretary Xavier Becerra declared a public health emergency for Puerto Rico Tuesday night, freeing up federal funds and equipment to help the island.

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The storm hit Grand Turk, the largest island in the Turks and Caicos, on Tuesday morning, before hitting its main group of islands several hours later.

The National Hurricane Center said Fiona, whose winds intensified at 125 mph (201 kph), were moving north toward Bermuda on Tuesday night and a Category 4 storm was expected to hit Thursday.

Canadian officials have warned of strong post-tropical conditions hitting Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, New Brunswick and Price Edward Island by Saturday.

The Deputy Governor of the Turks and Caicos Islands, Anya Williams, said the power outages affected five islands but there were no deaths reported so far.

“Closing the country early is what helped us save lives,” Williams told Reuters. She said her government was communicating with the British Royal Navy and the US Coast Guard, and the British Navy’s patrol ship HMS Midway was expected to arrive on Tuesday night to assist in the rescue efforts.

Jakuan Harvey, a 37-year-old businessman who lives in Grand Turk, said winds pushed rainwater through layers of windows and doors while his house shook.

“It was so loud, it was as if there were giants outside screaming and roaring,” Harvey said. “You can feel the pressure of the air as everything is vibrating.”

In the south, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico were stunned by the intensity of the storm and were struggling to deal with its effects.

Agency officials said Dean Cresswell, the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), arrived in Puerto Rico — a US territory — on Tuesday to assess the damage.

Officials said that several FEMA teams have been deployed, including two search and rescue units, and that several hundred FEMA personnel are already on the island.

painful memory

Hurricane Fiona was a painful reminder of Puerto Rico’s frailty. Tuesday marks the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Maria, a Category 5 storm that killed nearly 3,000 people and destroyed the power grid.

Thousands of Puerto Ricans still live under tarpaulins.

Fiona made landfall in Puerto Rico on Sunday afternoon, dumping up to 30 inches (76.2 cm) of rain in some areas and causing catastrophic flooding.

Nearly 80% of Puerto Ricos remained without power on Tuesday, according to Poweroutage.us. Officials said it would take days to reconnect the entire island of 3.3 million people.

“I have brought down many trees, there are poles that have fallen, and here at home we have got water where it has never happened before,” said Aspertly Vargas, a 40-year-old mechanic in the town of Yaoko on the southern coast of the island.

LUMA Energy, Puerto Rico’s power provider, said it had restored electricity to 100,000 customers, but it would take days to fully restore electricity.

In the Turks and Caicos Islands, a British overseas territory about 40,000 miles (1,125 km) southeast of Florida, the government has asked residents to shelter in place until further notice, and has ordered businesses to close.

Foreign governments have issued travel alerts for the islands, which are a popular tourist destination.

Similar preparations are underway in the eastern Bahamas, which could be avoided by a storm on Wednesday.

The commission said it could turn into a Category 4 storm in the coming days, hitting the Canadian Atlantic coast by late Friday.

Hurricanes are considered “major” by the NHC once they reach Category 3, and have wind speeds between 111 mph and 129 mph (178 km/h-208 km/h). A Category 4 storm has “catastrophic” wind speeds between 130 mph and 156 mph. The strongest Category 5 hurricane has wind speeds in excess of 157 miles per hour.

In the Dominican Republic, severe flooding limited access to villages, forced 12,500 people from their homes and left hundreds of thousands of people without power.

Fiona was the first hurricane to hit the Dominican Republic directly since Jane left extensive damage in the east of the country in 2004.

As of Monday night, the country’s emergency center counted more than 1.1 million people without drinking water and more than 700,000 without electricity.

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Additional reporting by Evlis Rivera, Ezequiel Abio Lopez and Rich Mackay in Atlanta; Additional reporting by Tim Reed and Brad Brooks. Written by Tyler Clifford. Editing by Richard Chang and Stephen Coates

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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