SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — On the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Maria, a devastating killer storm that left still-unhealed scars, Puerto Ricans awoke Tuesday to a fresh scene of ruin from Hurricane Fiona.
As the stories of rescues, damages and survival continue to trickle out, the initial numbers from Fiona were staggering: 1.5 million left without power, 25 inches of rain in multiple spots. Rio Guanajibo, in the southwest corner of the island, rose 18 feet overnight Sunday. Three confirmed deaths, and another in the Dominican Republic.
Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Pierluisi said in a news conference Tuesday that he’s asking President Joe Biden for a major disaster declaration for the island.
“This has been hard,” he said. “There are heavy damages and we are still evaluating their extent on the island to make sure we can attend to all the needs of our people.”
Puerto Rico wasn’t the only island nation reeling from Fiona. Nearly a million people lost running water in the nearby Dominican Republic, and thousands there were displaced and remain without electricity.
Overnight, Hurricane Fiona hit the warm waters north of Hispaniola and strengthened to a major Category 3 storm with 115 mph winds before beginning its assault on the Turks and Caicos, where no serious injuries or casualties have yet been reported.
By late Tuesday, Fiona is expected to continue to power up as it heads north, toward Bermuda. In its wake, Caribbean residents are left struggling to put together the pieces — once more.
No power, no water
Pierluisi told the press Tuesday that 60% of Puerto Ricans still don’t have running water and more than a million are still without power. Some mountain communities have been completely cut off after mudslides. About 1,200 people were still in government shelters.
Some of the heavy impacts came to towns that had never flooded before and that had never had their access roads blocked, he added.