Hurricane Fiona Continues to Batter Puerto Rico

Airlines have issued flight waivers for the region, as damage is catastrophic on the island and power likely will be out for days.

Photograph by EvgeniyQW for Adobe Stock
Photograph by EvgeniyQW for Adobe Stock

Hurricane Fiona unleashed more rain on Puerto Rico on Monday, a day after the storm knocked out power and water to most of the island, and National Guard troops rescued hundreds of people who got stranded. The governor warned that it could take days to get the lights back on.

The blow from Fiona was made more devastating because Puerto Rico has yet to recover from Hurricane Maria, which killed nearly 3,000 people and destroyed the power grid in 2017. Five years later, more than 3,000 homes on the island are still covered by blue tarps.

American, Delta, JetBlue and United airlines have issued alerts concerning travel to the region, waving change fees for flights in the next few days. 

The storm stripped pavement from roads, tore off roofs and sent torrents pouring into homes. It also took out a bridge and flooded two airports.

Authorities reported two deaths from the hurricane: A Puerto Rican man was swept away by a flooded river and a person in the Dominican Republic was hit by a falling tree.

Another death in Puerto Rico was associated with the blackout. A 70-year-old man was burned to death after he tried to fill his generator with gasoline while it was running, officials said.

Gov. Pedro Pierluisi declined to say how long it would take to restore electricity fully, but he said for most customers it would be "a question of days."

Since the start of the storm, National Guard troops have rescued more than 900 people, Gen. José Reyes told a news conference.

Meanwhile in the Dominican Republic, authorities closed ports and beaches and told most people to stay home from work. Nearly 800 people were evacuated to safer locations, and more than 700 were in shelters, officials said.

The hurricane left several highways blocked, and a tourist pier in the town of Miches was badly damaged by high waves. At least four international airports were closed, officials said.

The Dominican president, Luis Abinader, said authorities would need several days to assess the storm's effects.

After roaring over the Dominican Republic, Fiona moved into the open Atlantic, where it was projected to strengthen, according to the National Hurricane Center.

On Monday evening, it was centered about 130 miles southeast of Grand Turk Island and heading northwest at 10 mph, with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph. Tropical storm-force winds extended for 140 miles from the center.

U.S. President Joe Biden declared a state of emergency as the eye of the storm approached the island's southwest corner.

Fiona previously battered the eastern Caribbean, killing one man in the French territory of Guadeloupe when floodwaters washed his home away, officials said.

The system hit Puerto Rico on the anniversary of Hurricane Hugo, which slammed into the island in 1989 as a Category 3 storm.

Coto reported from Havana.