Hurricane Fiona reaches category 4 and moves north leaving a trail of destruction

(CNN) — Fiona is now a Category 4 hurricane and continues its catastrophic path north on Wednesday, leaving behind disaster-affected communities in Puerto Rico, the Turks and Caicos Islands and the Dominican Republic that must now begin working toward recovery.

Fiona’s sustained winds are reaching 130 mph with gusts reaching 155 mph, the National Hurricane Center said early Wednesday, and it is still expected to strengthen as it moves away from the Turks and Caicos Islands on Wednesday and makes its way to Bermuda at the end of the week.

After making landfall in Puerto Rico on Sunday, the storm swept across the island and then crashed into the Dominican Republic, causing devastating flooding and leaving critical water and power infrastructure damage in its wake. Most people in the storm’s path lost power and water in the immediate aftermath, officials said.

Fallen palm trees lay over the entrance to the Ports of Call Resort in Providenciales, Turks and Caicos.

The Turks and Caicos Islands was under a hurricane warning on Tuesday and residents were urged to take shelter as sustained winds of nearly 125 miles per hour, and even higher gusts, battered the islands, according to the territory’s Department of Disaster and Emergency Management. British. Conditions are expected to improve as the storm moves north.

Various parts of Turks and Caicos experienced power outages across the island, including Grand Turk, South Caicos, Salt Cay, North Caicos and Central Caicos, according to Lt. Governor Anya Williams.

The emergency management department warned that storm surge could cause water levels to rise 1.5 to 2.4 meters above normal tide levels. It also warned beachgoers that Fiona’s impact could create “life-threatening wave and rip current conditions.”

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While Williams said no deaths or serious injuries had been reported in the Turks and Caicos Islands as of Tuesday night, at least five deaths were reported elsewhere in the Caribbean.

Two people have died in the Dominican Republic, according to the territory’s emergency operations center: Aurielys Esther Jiménez, 18, was hit by a falling utility pole while riding a motorcycle, and a man was killed by a tree felled by strong winds.

One person was reported dead on the French island of Guadeloupe, although authorities did not provide further details. In Puerto Rico, at least two people have died, including Gilberto Ayala Aponte, 58, who was swept away by an overflowing river, and José Cruz Román, 70, who died in a fire accident while trying to refill his generator. Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Pierluisi said.

The hurricane moves north

The hurricane is expected to continue north through Wednesday, then likely turn northeast and start to approach Bermuda, the National Hurricane Center said.

The Bermuda Weather Service has issued a tropical storm watch ahead of the hurricane’s approach. The center of Fiona is forecast to pass 150 to 200 miles west of Bermuda, but the size of the storm could mean the island could be affected by tropical storm conditions.

The US State Department issued a notice Tuesday urging US citizens to reconsider traveling to Bermuda due to the storm’s potential impact. The department also authorized family members of US government personnel to leave the island ahead of the storm.

“US citizens in Bermuda who wish to depart the island should do so now, prior to the arrival of Hurricane Fiona,” the notice said. “US citizens in Bermuda in need of immediate emergency services should contact local authorities.”

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Fiona aftermath leaves millions without electricity or water

A man looks at his house after the passage of Hurricane Fiona in El Seibo, Dominican Republic.

Many in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic are still dealing with the aftermath of the hurricane and will likely face a lengthy relief and recovery process.

After an island-wide blackout left Puerto Rico’s 3.1 million residents without power, only about 300,000 customers had electricity back as of Tuesday afternoon, according to LUMA Energy, the private company that operates the power grid. of the island.

Governor Pierluisi said he expects “a large part of the population” to have power restored by Wednesday night, with the exception of the southern region of the island that has suffered the most severe damage.

Access to clean water remains a major concern in both Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. About 60% of Puerto Rico’s water customers were without service Tuesday morning, according to the island’s water utility.

“(Being without) energy, you know, we can deal with that and we can deal with it. The biggest concern is our water. We can’t live without water,” Carlos Vargas, a resident of Cayey, Puerto Rico, told CNN’s Leyla Santiago.

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

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

Puerto Rico’s devastating setback

The storm is a catastrophic blow to Puerto Rico, which was still recovering in some areas since Hurricane Maria swept through the island in 2017, causing widespread damage to infrastructure, destroying homes and leaving thousands dead.

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On Tuesday, five years after Maria’s arrival in Puerto Rico, Governor Pierluisi said that the damage caused by Fiona is “devastating” and “catastrophic” in the central, southern and southeastern regions of the island. But the full extent of the damage has yet to be revealed, the governor said, adding that he and officials have been surveying the island to get a more complete picture.

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

Across Puerto Rico, more than 1,200 people were housed in dozens of shelters on Tuesday, according to the governor.

Emergency crews are battling landslides and flooding conditions, which are blocking access to parts of the power grid, as well as remote and highly affected areas in need of supplies, according to CNN’s Leyla Santiago in Puerto Rico.

Some 200 families were stranded in the Barros sector of the island because a bridge had been destroyed, according to the governor.

Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Deanne Criswell traveled to Puerto Rico Tuesday to assess the damage and determine what additional federal assistance is needed, according to a news release.

“We will be dispatching hundreds of additional workers in the coming days to staff each of the affected communities and supplement our already large footprint,” Criswell said in a statement.

However, signs of immediate recovery are emerging, as utility workers are expected to return to work on Wednesday, if they can do so safely, Gov. Pierluisi 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 will likely be “gradual.”

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

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