SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Hurricane Fiona threatened to strengthen into a Category 4 hurricane on Wednesday as it lashed the Turks and Caicos Islands and was forecast to squeeze into Bermuda later this week.
The storm was blamed for causing at least four direct deaths in its march through the Caribbean, where it triggered torrential rains in Puerto Rico, leaving most people without electricity or water, as Hundreds of thousands of people pulled the soil out of their homes in what officials described. As in the “historic” flood.
Power company officials had initially said that it would take a few days to fully restore power, but power appeared to be back on late Tuesday night.
“Hurricane Fiona has severely affected power infrastructure and production facilities across the island. We would like to make it very clear that efforts to restore and reactivate are ongoing and have caused severe flooding, impassable roads, fallen are being affected by trees, deteriorating equipment and downed lines,” said Luma, the company that operates power transmission and distribution.
The rumble of generators could be heard across the island as people became increasingly desperate, some still trying to recover from Hurricane Maria, which had been a Category 4 hurricane five years earlier, followed by an estimated 2,975 People were killed.
Luis Noguera, who was helping clear a landslide in the central mountain town of Caye, said Maria left them without electricity for a year.
“We paid an electrician out of our own pocket to connect us,” he recalled, adding that he didn’t think the government would be of much help again after Fiona.
Long lines were reported at several gas stations in Puerto Rico, and some pulled down a main highway to collect water from a stream.
“We thought we had a bad experience with Maria, but it was worse,” said Gerardo Rodriguez, who lives in the southern coastal city of Salinas.
Parts of the island received more than 25 inches (64 cm) of rain and more rain fell on Tuesday.
By the end of Tuesday, officials said they had restored power to about 300,000 of the island’s 1.47 million customers, while water service was cut for more than 760,000 customers – two-thirds of the total on the island.
The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency traveled to Puerto Rico on Tuesday as the agency announced it was sending hundreds of additional personnel to boost local response efforts.
Meanwhile, the US Department of Health and Human Services declared a public health emergency on the island and deployed some teams to US territory.
In the Turks and Caicos Islands, officials reported minimal damage and no deaths, despite the eye of the storm passing near the small British territory’s capital island of Grand Turk on Tuesday morning.
The government had imposed curfew and urged people to flee the flood-affected areas.
“Turks and Caicos had an unprecedented experience in the last 24 hours,” Deputy Governor Anya Williams said. “It certainly came with its share of challenges.”
Late Tuesday, Fiona was centered about 95 miles (155 kilometers) north of North Caicos Island, with hurricane-force winds up to 30 miles (45 kilometers) from the center. It had maximum sustained winds of 125 mph (205 kph) and was moving to the north at 8 mph (13 kph), according to the Hurricane Center, which said the storm was on Friday. It is likely to strengthen into a Category 4 hurricane as it approaches Bermuda.
The storm killed one person in the French Caribbean region of Guadeloupe, another person in Puerto Rico who was swept away by a swollen river and two people in the Dominican Republic: one from a fallen tree and another from a collapsed power post .
Associated Press videographer Alejandro Granadillo contributed to this report.