Hurricane Fiona reaches Category 4 as it moves north, setting stricken areas on slow recovery path

The National Hurricane Center said earlier Wednesday that Fiona had sustained winds of up to 130 mph and gusts of up to 155 mph and was expected to wrap up the week as Wednesday moved away from the Turks and Caicos Islands and headed for Bermuda.

After making landfall in Puerto Rico on Sunday, the storm swept the island before slamming into the Dominican Republic, causing devastating flooding and wreaking havoc on hydroelectric infrastructure. Most people in the storm’s path lost power or water immediately after the storm, officials said.

The Turks and Caicos Islands were under a cyclone warning on Tuesday and residents were urged to shelter in place as sustained winds of up to nearly 125 mph – and even higher gusts – battered the islands, according to the British Territorial Disaster Management Department. . and emergencies. Conditions are expected to improve as the storm moves further north.

According to Lieutenant Governor Anya Williams, several areas of the Turks and Caicos Islands experienced islandwide power outages, including Grand Turk, South Caicos, Salt Key, North Caicos and Middle Caicos Islands.

Emergency management warned that storm surge could cause water levels to be 5 to 8 feet higher than normal. It also warned beachgoers that Fiona’s impact could create “life-threatening surf and rapids conditions”.

As of Tuesday evening, no deaths or serious injuries had been reported in the Turks and Caicos Islands, but at least five people had died elsewhere in the Caribbean, Williams said.

Shelter-in-place order in Turks and Caicos as Hurricane Fiona hits islands after 5 dead in Caribbean

Two people have died in the Dominican Republic: Aurielys Esther Jimenez, 18, was hit by a falling power pole while riding a motorcycle, and a man was killed by a tree cut down by strong winds, according to the Dominican Republic Emergency Operations Center.

One person was reported dead on the French island of Guadeloupe, but officials gave no further details. In Puerto Rico, at least two people were killed, including Gilberto Ayala Aponte, 58, who was washed away by floodwaters, and José Cruz Román, 70, who caught fire while trying to refuel a generator in Puerto Rico. Rico Governor Pedro Pierluis said.

Storm continues to approach north

The NHC said the storm is expected to continue moving north until Wednesday, before possibly turning to the northeast and beginning to approach Bermuda.

The Bermuda Meteorological Service issued a tropical storm warning ahead of the hurricane. The center of Fiona is expected to pass about 150 to 200 miles west of Bermuda, but the increased size of the storm could mean the island could be hit by tropical storms.

Due to the potential impact of the storm, the U.S. State Department issued a travel advisory Tuesday urging U.S. citizens to reconsider travel to Bermuda. The department also authorized families of U.S. government personnel to leave the island in response to the storm.

“U.S. citizens of Bermuda wishing to leave the island should do so now before Hurricane Fiona arrives,” the advisory said. “U.S. citizens of Bermuda who require immediate emergency services should contact local authorities.”

Fiona fallout leaves millions without electricity and water

Many in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic are still grappling with the aftermath of the storm and may face a prolonged rescue and recovery process.

According to LUMA Energy, the private company that operates Puerto Rico’s power grid, only about 300,000 customers had had power restored as of Tuesday afternoon after an islandwide outage left 3.1 million Puerto Rico residents without power.

Governor Pierluisi said he expected power to be restored to “a large part of the population” by late Wednesday, but the southern part of the island suffered the worst damage.

Access to clean water remains a major issue in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. About 60 percent of Puerto Rico’s water users were without service Tuesday morning, according to Puerto Rico Water.

“(Without) electricity, you know, we can face this problem, we can deal with this problem. The biggest problem is our water. We can’t live without water,” Puerto Rico Kay resident Carlos Vargas told CNN’s Leyla Santiago .

Nearly 2 million customers in the Dominican Republic were also without water on Tuesday night, according to the major. General Juan Méndez García, director of the country’s emergency operations center.

Garcia said more than 600 homes in the country were destroyed and 12 communities were left without assistance due to the storm. He also said that at least 23 roads and 18 bridges were damaged.

Devastating setback for Puerto Rico

The storm was catastrophic for Puerto Rico, which is still recovering in some areas since Hurricane Maria swept the island in 2017, causing widespread infrastructure damage, destroying homes and killing thousands.

Tuesday marks the 5th anniversary of Maria’s landing in Puerto Rico. Pierluisi said the damage caused by Fiona was “devastating” and “catastrophic” in the central, southern and southeastern parts of the island. But the governor said the full extent of the damage has yet to become apparent, adding that he and officials have been investigating the island for a more complete picture.

More than 1,200 people were placed in dozens of shelters across Puerto Rico on Tuesday, according to the governor.

According to CNN’s Leyla Santiago in Puerto Rico, emergency crews are battling mudslides and flooding conditions that are blocking access to parts of the power grid and hard-hit and remote areas that need supplies.

The National Guard directs traffic in Cay, Puerto Rico, as resident Luis Noguera helps clear the road.

According to the governor, some 200 families were trapped in the island’s Barrows district due to the destruction of a bridge.

FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell traveled to Puerto Rico on Tuesday to assess the damage and determine what additional federal assistance is needed, according to the release.

“We will be deploying hundreds of additional personnel over the next few days to place workers in each of the affected communities to complement our already secured footprint,” Criswell said in a statement.

However, signs of an immediate recovery are emerging as public service workers are expected to return to work on Wednesday if they can safely return to work. Pierre Lewis said. Public ground transportation is also expected to resume in some urban areas on Wednesday, officials said.

Schools are also being inspected to determine when students can safely return, a process the governor said could be “gradual.”

CNN Puerto Rico’s Leyla Santiagio and CNN’s Robert Shackelford, Jamiel Lynch, Amanda Musa, Chris Boyette and Taylor Ward contributed to this report.

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