April 2, 2023

CAGUAZ, Puerto Rico (AP) — Hurricane Fiona left dozens of families stranded in Puerto Rico after destroying roads and bridges, four days after the storm hit U.S. territory as authorities struggle to reach people, causing historic flooding .

For now, government officials are working with religious groups, nonprofits and others walking through landslides, thick mud and broken asphalt to provide food, water and medicine to those in need, but they are faced with clearing roads so vehicles can Getting into quarantined stress areas is quick.

Puerto Rico Emergency Management Agency Commissioner Nino Correa estimated that at least six cities across the island have areas cut off by Fiona, which hit as a Category 1 hurricane and reached Category 4 power Wednesday as it traveled to Bermuda.

Living in one of those areas is Manuel Vigira, who has been unable to leave his community in the northern mountain town of Caguas since Fiona swept in on Sunday.

“We’re all isolated,” he said, adding that he worries about his elderly neighbors, including his older brother, who don’t have the strength to travel long distances to reach the nearest community.

Veguilla had heard that city officials might open a passage on Thursday, but he doubted that would happen because he said large rocks covered a nearby bridge and the 10-foot space under it.

Neighbors shared food and water delivered by the nonprofit, and an elderly woman’s son walked back with basic supplies on Wednesday, he said.

Veguilla said he and others used picks and shovels to clear debris after Hurricane Maria, which struck a Category 4 storm five years ago and killed nearly 3,000 people. But Fiona was different, triggering a huge landslide.

“I can’t throw those rocks over my shoulder,” he said.

Like hundreds of thousands of other Puerto Ricans after Fiona, Vigila has no hydroelectric service, but said they have natural water sources nearby.

Fiona triggered islandwide power outages as it struck southwestern Puerto Rico, which has struggled to recover from a series of powerful earthquakes in recent years. About 70% of the 1.47 million customers were without power three days after the storm as the National Weather Service issued an extreme heat warning. About 40% of customers, or more than 500,000, do not have water service.

The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency has sent hundreds of additional personnel to help local officials as the federal government approved a major disaster declaration and declared a public health emergency for the island.

Neither local nor federal officials provided any damage estimates as Puerto Rico struggled to recover from the storm, which brought up to 30 inches of rain in some areas. More than 1,000 people remain in shelters.

“Our hearts go out to the people of Puerto Rico, who have suffered so much over the past few years,” said Brad Kieserman, vice president of operations and logistics for the Red Cross.

After Puerto Rico, Fiona struck the Dominican Republic before intensifying into a Category 4 storm over the Turks and Caicos Islands. Officials there reported relatively light damage and no deaths, even though the center of the storm on Tuesday was close to the British territory’s capital, Grand Turk.

“God has been good to us and kept us safe during a time when we could have gotten worse,” Lieutenant Governor Anya Williams said.

Fiona is expected to pass near Bermuda early Friday before hitting easternmost Canada early Saturday, the National Hurricane Center said.

Fiona had maximum sustained winds of 130 mph (215 kph) late Wednesday, the center said. It is located approximately 550 miles (885 km) southwest of Bermuda and travels north at 10 mph (17 km/h). It is expected to pass near Bermuda early Friday.

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