MIAMI — Hurricane Fiona knocked out Puerto Rico’s already-fragile electrical system Sunday afternoon, leaving millions without power and thousands without running water — as devastating floods and landslides destroyed roads, homes and at least one bridge.
“The damage we are seeing is catastrophic” Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Pierluisi said during a news conference Sunday evening.
Fiona is pummeling the U.S. territory nearly five years after Hurricane Maria devastated the island’s infrastructure, killing thousands and keeping millions in the dark for months. As of late Sunday afternoon, the Puerto Rican government hadn’t reported any deaths caused by the hurricane.
Pierluisi said some evacuations were underway in the towns of Caguas and Toa Baja. Fiona has caused “severe damage” in several towns, he noted, knocking down trees and power lines, producing landslides, and blocking roadways.
“The danger of flooding and landslides continues,” added the governor, “and no one should be taking to the streets with the exception of first responders.”
Fiona made landfall shortly after 3 p.m. Sunday in the coastal town of Cabo Rojo. It was moving just west of Puerto Rico and heading for the Dominican Republic, the National Hurricane Service said Sunday in its 5 p.m. advisory.
Puerto Rico goes dark
The U.S. territory is experiencing an island-wide blackout, private power utility operator LUMA Energy spokesman Hugo Sorrentini told the Miami Herald. He said the hurricane’s powerful winds had caused several interruptions in the grid’s transmission lines. LUMA has nearly 1.5 million clients.
“The current weather conditions are currently extremely dangerous and are hindering our capacity to evaluate the situation,” Sorrentini said. “We will begin the re-establishment efforts as soon as it is safe.”
Restoring power service for the entire island could take several days, Sorrentini said. The storm could isolate some places, making repairs difficult.