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Hurricane Fiona hit the Turks and Caicos Islands as a powerful Category 3 storm on Tuesday after leaving a trail of destruction in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

The top US disaster management official was traveling to Puerto Rico to assess damage to US territory still struggling to recover from Hurricane Maria five years ago.

Fiona suffered at least two d*aths as she crossed the Caribbean – a man whose home was swept away in the French overseas department of Guadeloupe and another in the Dominican Republic who died felling a tree.

The Turks and Caicos Islands, a British territory of some 38,000 people, were being hit by heavy rain and strong winds as Fiona slid north on a path that could see the storm approach Bermuda on Thursday evening.

“Hurricane Fiona turned out to be an unpredictable storm,” Anya Williams, deputy governor of the Turks and Caicos Islands, said in a broadcast.

Williams said no casualties or serious injuries were reported in the Turks and Caicos Islands overnight, but she urged residents to continue sheltering in place.

Power cuts were reported on Grand Turk and several other islands in the archipelago and 165 people were admitted to shelters, she said, adding that Britain’s Royal Navy and US Coastguard were on standby. to provide assistance.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said Fiona was blowing peak winds approaching 115 miles (185 kilometers) per hour, making it a major hurricane, and it’s expected to get even stronger.

Dominican Republic President Luis Abinader said three eastern provinces were disaster areas: La Altagracia, home to the famous Punta Cana resort, El Seibo and Hato Mayor.

Several roads were flooded or cut by falling trees or power poles around Punta Cana where the power was cut.

Local media footage showed residents of the east coast town of Higuey standing waist deep in water trying to retrieve their belongings.

“It happened at high speed,” Vicente Lopez told AFP, deploring the destroyed businesses in the region.

“I have food and water”

US President Joe Biden declared a state of emergency in Puerto Rico – where the storm hit a day earlier – and dispatched the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency to the island.

“We are sending hundreds of additional staff in the coming days to place personnel in each of the affected communities,” FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell said.

Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Pierluisi said the storm had caused catastrophic damage to the island of three million people since Sunday, with some areas receiving more than 30 inches (76 centimeters) of rain.

Michelle Carlo, medical adviser for Direct Relief in Puerto Rico, told CBS News that “a lot of people in Puerto Rico are hurting right now.”

“About 80% of Puerto Ricans are still without electricity and about 65% are without water service,” Carlo said.

In Puerto Rico, Fiona caused landslides, blocked roads and toppled trees, power lines and bridges, Pierluisi said.

A man was killed as an indirect result of the power outage – burned to d*ath as he tried to fill up his generator, authorities said.

On Monday afternoon, Nelly Marrero returned to her home in Toa Baja, in northern Puerto Rico, to clean up the mud that arose inside after she was evacuated.

“Thank God I have food and water,” Marrero, who lost everything when Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, told AFP by phone.

The hurricane left about 800,000 people without clean water due to power outages and flooded rivers, officials said.

After years of financial hardship and recession, in 2017 Puerto Rico declared the largest bankruptcy ever undertaken by a local US government.

Later that year, the double whammy of hurricanes Irma and Maria added to the misery, devastating the island’s power grid, which has suffered from major infrastructure problems for years.

The network was privatized in June 2021 in a bid to solve the problem of power cuts, but the problem persisted and the whole island lost power earlier this year.

(AFP)

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