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Hurricane Fiona continued its slow and devastating northward march after hitting the Turks and Caicos Islands on Tuesday and leaving a trail of destruction in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said Wednesday morning that the storm had strengthened, recording peak wind speeds of 130 miles per hour (210 kilometers per hour) as it tracked toward Bermuda.

The NHC said Fiona was 170 kilometers north of the Turks and Caicos Islands and had been upgraded to a Category 4 hurricane, the second-highest level on the Saffir-Simpson scale.

“The Fiona swell is expected to reach Bermuda early Thursday. The swell could cause life-threatening surf and rip conditions,” the NHC said in its latest advisory.

At least five people died as the storm battered the Caribbean – one in the French overseas department of Guadeloupe and two in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

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

Williams said no casualties or serious injuries have been reported in the Turks and Caicos Islands, 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.

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.

Authorities said on Tuesday that more than 10,000 people had been moved to “safe areas”, while around 400,000 are without power.

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 in Punta Cana, lamenting the destroyed businesses in the area.

“I have food and water”

US President Joe Biden has declared a state of emergency in Puerto Rico and sent the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency to the island, which is still struggling to recover from Hurricane Maria five years ago .

“We are sending hundreds more people to support all affected communities,” FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell said Tuesday after a visit with Pedro Pierluisi, the island’s governor.

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 in Hurricane Maria, told AFP by phone.

The latest storm left about 800,000 people without drinking 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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