Berliner Tageszeitung - Puerto Rico without power as Hurricane Fiona approaches

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Puerto Rico without power as Hurricane Fiona approaches




Puerto Rico without power as Hurricane Fiona approaches
Puerto Rico without power as Hurricane Fiona approaches / Foto: © AFP

Hurricane Fiona barreled toward Puerto Rico's coast on Sunday, knocking out all power and threatening to cause "catastrophic flooding" in the US island territory.

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Packing winds of 85 miles (140 kilometers) per hour, Fiona is forecast to strengthen further in the next 48 hours as it moves toward Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic before heading north into the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

The US National Hurricane Center (NHC) said the eye of the storm was approaching the southwest coast of Puerto Rico, and that "catastrophic flooding" was expected there and in the Dominican Republic, an island nation to the west.

"Additional strengthening is forecast during the next 48 hours while Fiona moves near Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and over the southwestern Atlantic," the NHC said.

The National Weather Service's San Juan office also warned on Twitter of "life-threatening flash flooding of streams, highways and streets, as well as urban, low-lying and poorly drained areas."

The island lost power as Fiona neared Puerto Rico, Governor Pedro Pierluisi said in a statement posted on Twitter.

"Due to the effect of the hurricane, the electrical system is currently out of service," he said, adding that flooding has been reported in various parts of the island.

The storm has already caused a fatality, with a man left dead when his house was swept away by flooding in the French overseas department of Guadeloupe, when Fiona was still classified as a tropical storm.

US President Joe Biden declared a state of emergency for Puerto Rico on Sunday as Fiona approached the island, authorizing the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide assistance.

- 'Go to shelters' -

Pierluisi told a news conference the previous day that "we are asking residents not to leave their homes and to go to shelters if they are in areas prone to landslides and flooding."

The island -- which has suffered from major infrastructure problems for years -- was hit by hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, devastating its electrical grid.

The grid was privatized in June 2021 in an effort to resolve the problem of blackouts, but the issue has persisted, and the entire island lost power earlier this year.

Power outages were hitting Puerto Rico even before the full force of Hurricane Fiona struck, with more than 388,000 people without electricity, according to tracking website poweroutage.us.

The former Spanish colony became a US territory in the late 19th century before gaining the status of associated free state in 1950.

After years of financial woes and recession, in 2017 the island declared the largest bankruptcy ever by a local US administration. Later that year, hurricanes Irma and Maria added to the island's woes, and sparked a feud between San Juan and Washington.

Then-president Donald Trump's administration was widely accused of failing to provide sufficient federal aid to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria struck.

Footage of him tossing paper towels to survivors during a visit to the island drew criticism, and Trump later claimed the storm's death toll had been inflated by Democrats to "make me look as bad as possible."

F. Burkhard--BTZ