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Hurricane Fiona made landfall in Puerto Rico as a Category 1 storm on Sunday afternoon, the US National Hurricane Center announced.

The hurricane hit the southwest coast of the US island territory “near Punta Tocon at 3:20 p.m.” (1920 GMT), the NHC said on Twitter, as the storm blew maximum sustained winds of 85 miles (140 kilometers) per hour. A Category 1 hurricane is the lowest level on the Saffir-Simpson scale.

The island lost power earlier on Sunday as Fiona approached 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.

Ports in Puerto Rico have been closed and flights from the main airport cancelled. Torrential rains and mudslides were also forecast for the Dominican Republic as the storm progresses northwest, with the Turks and Caicos Islands likely facing tropical storm conditions on Tuesday, the NHC said.

“These rains will produce potentially life-threatening and catastrophic flash flooding and urban flooding in Puerto Rico and the eastern Dominican Republic, as well as landslides and landslides in areas of higher ground,” said the agency.

The storm has already claimed one d*ath, with a man left dead when his house was swept away by floods in the French overseas department of Guadeloupe, while Fiona was still classified as a tropical storm.

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

“Go to the Shelters”

Pierluisi told a press conference the day before that “we ask residents not to leave their homes and to go to shelters if they are in areas prone to landslides and floods.”

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

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.

Power outages were hitting Puerto Rico even before Hurricane Fiona struck with full force, leaving more than 388,000 people without power, according to tracking site poweroutage.us.

The former Spanish colony became a US territory in the late 19th century before gaining Associated Free State status in 1950.

After years of financial difficulties and recession, in 2017 the island declared the largest bankruptcy ever recorded by a local American administration. Later that year, hurricanes Irma and Maria compounded the island’s woes and sparked a feud between San Juan and Washington.

The administration of then-President Donald Trump has been widely blamed for failing to provide enough federal aid to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria hit.

Footage of him throwing paper towels at survivors during a visit to the island drew criticism, and Trump later claimed the storm’s d*ath toll had been inflated by Democrats to “make me look as bad as possible”.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and Reuters)

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