By Ethan Nichols, World News Editor
Mere days after the five-year anniversary of the catastrophic Hurricane Maria hitting Puerto Rico, Hurricane Fiona slammed into the island. The hurricane was building into a Category 3 storm before it hit the Dominican Republic on Tuesday, causing severe flooding, raining and mass power outages.
Hurricane Fiona made landfall along the coast of Puerto Rico Sunday afternoon, with winds of 85 mph. The storm hit mere days after the five-year anniversary of Hurricane Maria, which left the island devastated with nearly 3,000 dead.
Puerto Rico lost power Sunday. The Category 1 hurricane has led to severe flooding, with the hurricane center predicting up to 30 inches of rain across the island as the storm is forecasted to build to a Category 3 storm by mid-week.
“These rains will produce life-threatening and catastrophic flash and urban flooding across Puerto Rico and the eastern Dominican Republic, along with mudslides and landslides in areas of higher terrain,” the National Hurricane Center reported.
Abner Gomez, head of public safety and crisis management at LUMA Energy, said utility authorities plan to repair and restore electricity with the help of local government agencies.
“This is not Maria. This hurricane will not be Maria,” Gomez said.
On Sunday morning, U.S. President Joe Biden approved an emergency declaration for Puerto Rico, opening up usage of federal resources to provide relief to the island, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). There are now more than 300 FEMA responders on the ground in Puerto Rico working with the commonwealth to respond and provide disaster relief.
More than 25,000 cots at more than 120 shelters have been opened for those in need. School has been canceled, and all non-emergency government workers have been directed to remain at home.
Puerto Rico’s health centers began running on generators following the power outages, and some of the generators have failed. Health Secretary Carlos Mellado said crews rushed to repair generators at the Comprehensive Cancer Center, where several patients had to be evacuated.
“Jill and I are keeping the people of Puerto Rico in our prayers as Hurricane Fiona passes over your beautiful island.” Biden tweeted. “We are here for you, and we will get through this together.
“Yesterday, I declared an Emergency Disaster Declaration for Puerto Rico to ensure the full force of the federal government supports you. We have hundreds of personnel on the ground and ask that you heed the warnings of state and local officials,” he added.
Hurricane Fiona hit the Dominican Republic on Monday with some areas experiencing up to 15 inches of rain. Meteorologists expect torrential rain and flooding.
The storm passed Turks and Caicos. The islands are now under a shelter-in-place order as the storm begins to leave and head towards Bermuda Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. Hurricane Fiona has left at least 5 dead across the Caribbean.