Terrifying moment a BRIDGE is swept away in Puerto Rico as Hurricane Fiona brings catastrophic flooding and 100mph winds: Entire island plunged into darkness as Joe Biden declares a state of emergency
- Powerful storm Fiona has been upgraded to hurricane status and hit Puerto Rico hard on Sunday afternoon
- Officials say rains and floods are life-threatening rains as residents shutter their homes and prepare for worst
- President Joe Biden made an emergency declaration for the US territory to channel FEMA funds to the island
- Puerto Rico’s electricity grid failed as the strong winds blew down powerlines with the entire network remaining extremely fragile after Hurricane Maria in September 2017 and the largest blackout in U.S. history
Vast amounts of damage is being reported across the island of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Fiona came ashore on Sunday afternoon.
Roads were turned into raging torrents whilst even newly constructed bridges following Hurricane Maria in 2017 were washed away. The entire island is once again without electricity plunging the island’s population of about 3.2 million people into a total blackout.
The ferocious wind ripped roofs from homes whilst the heavy rain also caused landslides.
The storm also washed away a bridge in the central mountain town of Utuado that police say was installed by the National Guard after Hurricane Maria hit in 2017.
Fiona hit about 15 miles south-southeast of Mayaguez with maximum sustained winds of 85 mph, according to the US National Hurricane Centre. It was moving to the north-west at 9 mph.
Earlier on Sunday, President Joe Biden gave approval for a state of emergency to be declared. Puerto Rico’s ports have been closed and flights out of the main airport canceled.
The emergency declaration authorizes Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to coordinate disaster relief efforts and provide emergency protective measures, the White House explained.
U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said agency officials deployed to Puerto Rico will assist with restoration efforts ‘as it becomes safe to do so.’
Fiona was at hurricane strength as torrential rains deluged the Caribbean island.
The National Hurricane Center said radar indicated the storm made landfall at about along the southwestern coast of the island near Punta Tocon at 3:20pm.
This was a brand new metal bridge installed after Hurricane Maria in the town of Utuado, Puerto Rico
Such was the strength of the water, the entire contsruction was simply washed away down river
The massive metal bridge could be seen floating downstream as floods lifted it from its foundations on Sunday afternoon
Residents couldn’t believe their eyes as the bridge simply floated away
One Twitter user captured this raging torrent of water sweeping through Pueblo de Naranjito
The water was seen flowing along at quite a rate of speed. Forecasters are predicting up to 30 inches of rain to fall in total
People look at a flooded road during the passing of Hurricane Fiona through Cayey, Puerto Rico on Sunday
A road is flooded by the rains of Hurricane Fiona in Cayey, Puerto Rico with landslides still a huge risk to life
People clean debris from a road after a mudslide was caused by Hurricane Fiona in Cayey, Puerto Rico, on Sunday
A road blocked is blocked by a mudslide caused by Hurricane Fiona in Cayey, Puerto Rico on Sunday
A river swollen with rain caused by Hurricane Fiona speeds through Cayey, Puerto Rico on Sunday
Several people were tripped inside this house which now stands in what looks to be the middle of a raging river
People clean a house flooded by the rains of Hurricane Fiona in Cayey, Puerto Rico on Sunday
Flooding in the town of Maunabo, Puerto Rico as a result of Hurricane Fiona
People shelter underneath an overpass as Hurricane Fiona made landfall in Ponce, Puerto Rico
A member of the Emergency Operations Committee (COE) monitors the trajectory of Hurricane Fiona in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic on Sunday
The Mamey river flooded houses in Patillas, Puerto Rico as Hurricane Fiona came ashore
People shelter underneath an overpass as Hurricane Fiona made landfall in Ponce, Puerto Rico on Sunday afternoon
Strong river current destroyed a brand new metal bridge installed post Hurracane Maria in Salto Alto, in the town of Utuado
A worker cuts an electricity pole that was downed by Hurricane Fiona as it blocks a road in Cayey, Puerto Rico on Sunday
A man jumps into an all terrain vehicle as Hurricane Fiona made landfall in Ponce, Puerto Rico bringing torrential rain
Roads were turned into rivers. There is no sign of a metal bridge that once stood at this point
Three people inside a house await rescue from the floods caused by Hurricane Fiona in Cayey, Puerto Rico
A man walks on a road flooded by Hurricane Fiona in Cayey, Puerto Rico, on Sunday
The storm’s clouds covered the entire island and tropical storm-force winds extended as far as 140 miles from Fiona’s centre.
Gov. Pedro Pierluisi tweeted at about 2pm EDT that ‘the electrical system is currently out of service. Protocols have been activated according to plans established to address this situation.’
Pierluisi also announced on Sunday that public schools and government agencies would remain closed on Monday.
‘The damages that we are seeing are catastrophic,’ he said.
Luma, the company that operates power transmission and distribution, said bad weather, including winds of 80 mph, had disrupted transmission lines, leading to ‘a blackout on all the island’.
‘Current weather conditions are extremely dangerous and are hindering our capacity to evaluate the complete situation,’ it said, adding that it could take several days to fully restore power.
At a press conference in the capital San Juan on Sunday night, LUMA spokesman Abner Gomez said the entire electrical system had first been shut down to protect its infrastructure. Some power was being restored with priority being given to hospitals and other critical community services, he said.
‘This has been catastrophic,’ Pierluisi said at the news conference. ‘We are responding to the emergency as weather conditions permit.
Health centers were running on generators — and some of those had failed. Health Secretary Carlos Mellado said crews were working to repair generators as soon as possible at the Comprehensive Cancer Centre.
By Sunday evening, almost 15 inches of rain had fallen in some areas with nearly the entire island under a flash flood warning.
The metal crash barrier at the side of the road was simply stripped away like spaghetti, such was the strength of the storm
A worker of the Loiza municipality calls on residents to evacuate due to imminent flooding due to the rains of Hurricane Fiona
A flooded road is seen during the passing of hurricane Fiona in Villa Blanca, Puerto Rico
A man stands near a flooded road during the passing of Hurricane Fiona in Villa Blanca, Puerto Rico. Fiona touched Puerto Rico at 3:20pm local time according to the United States National Hurricane Center
Nelson Cirino sees his bedroom after the winds of hurricane Fiona tore the roof off his house in Loiza, Puerto Rico, Sunday
A woman and her dog take refuge in a shelter from Hurricane Fiona in Loiza, Puerto Rico, Sunday
Nelson Cirino’s home stands with its roof torn off by the winds of Hurricane Fiona in Loiza, Puerto Rico
A person takes refuge in a school due to the passage of Hurricane Fiona, in San Juan, Puerto Rico
A woman salvages her belongings from her flooded house during the passage of hurricane Fiona in Villa Blanca, Puerto Rico
The Atlantic ocean from La Perla is seen during the passage of Hurricane Fiona, in San Juan
Signs were almost completely blown from their foundations as the wind blew at speeds of up to 85mph
Huge waves could be seen washing ashore in San Juan on Sunday afternoon
Puerto Rico Fire Department attends a landslide in the residential area of Guaynabo
One landslide saw an entire home collapse and fall down a hillside in Guaynabo
Joeni Rodriguez meets with her neighbors at the door of her house, after losing power due to the hurricane
People who were evacuated from their homes are seen in a class room of a public school turned shelter as the storm reached the island
Firefighters work to remove a fallen tree from the road in Vega Baja, Puerto Rico as strong winds threaten to rip apart the island
A satellite shows Hurricane Fiona in the Caribbean on Sunday .The eye of newly formed Hurricane Fiona is near the coast of Puerto Rico – and it has already sparked an island-wide blackout and threatens to dump ‘historic’ levels of rain
Te entire of Puerto Rico island appears engulfed by the hurricane on Sunday afternoon
Puerto Rico, a Caribbean island of 3.3 million people, could be hit by up to 30 inches of rain. Forecasters said the storm would cause massive flooding and threatened to dump ‘historic’ levels of rain.
Photos showed damaged buildings and flooded cars in Ponce, about 34 miles east of where Fiona made landfall.
‘These rains will produce life-threatening flash flooding and urban flooding across Puerto Rico and the eastern Dominican Republic, along with mudslides and landslides in areas of higher terrain,’ the NHC said.
The storm ripped up asphalt from roads and flung the pieces around.
‘I urge people to stay in their homes,’ said William Miranda Torres, mayor of the northern town of Caguas, where at least one large landslide was reported, with water rushing down a big slab of broken asphalt and into a gully.
Puerto Rico’s grid remains extremely fragile after Hurricane Maria slammed the island in September 2017 causing the largest blackout in U.S. history.
In that category 5 storm, 1.5 million customers lost electricity with 80% of power lines knocked out.
Authorities have opened about 80 shelters and closed beaches and casinos, and residents were urged to seek shelter.
The storm was forecast to pummel cities and towns along Puerto Rico´s southern coast that are still recovering from a string of strong earthquakes that hit the region starting in late 2019, with several schools still shuttered and debris to be removed.
Residents attach protective plywood to a window of their home in preparation for the arrival of Hurricane Fiona, in Loiza, Puerto Rico
Jetsabel Osorio stands in her house damaged five years ago by Hurricane Maria before the arrival of Hurricane Fiona
Officials reported several road closures across the island as trees and small landslides blocked access.
More than 780 people with some 80 pets had sought shelter across the island by Saturday night, the majority of them in the southern coast.
With Fiona due just two days before the anniversary of Hurricane Maria, people boarded up windows and stocked up on food and water.
Fiona hit just two days before the anniversary of Hurricane Maria, a devastating Category 5 storm that struck on September 20, 2017, destroying the island’s power grid and causing nearly 3,000 deaths.
More than 3,000 homes still have only a blue tarp as a roof, and infrastructure remains weak.
‘I think all of us Puerto Ricans who lived through Maria have that post-traumatic stress of, ‘What is going to happen, how long is it going to last and what needs might we face?’ said Danny Hernández, who works in the capital of San Juan but planned to weather the storm with his parents and family in the western town of Mayaguez.
He said the atmosphere was gloomy at the supermarket as he and others stocked up before the storm hit.
‘After Maria, we all experienced scarcity to some extent,’ he said.
In the southwest town of El Combate, hotel co-owner Tomás Rivera said he was prepared but worried about the ‘enormous’ amount of rain he expected. He noted that a nearby wildlife refuge was eerily quiet.
‘There are thousands of birds here, and they are nowhere to be seen,’ he said. ‘Even the birds have realized what is coming, and they’re preparing.’
Rivera said his employees brought bedridden family members to the hotel, where he has stocked up on diesel, gasoline, food, water and ice, given how slowly the government responded after Hurricane Maria.
‘What we´ve done is prepared ourselves to depend as little as possible on the central government,’ he said.
It’s a sentiment shared by 70-year-old Ana Córdova, who arrived Saturday at a shelter in the north coastal town of Loiza after buying loads of food and water.
‘I don’t trust them,’ she said, referring to the government. ‘I lost trust after what happened after Hurricane Maria.’
Denise Rios, who lives in the southwestern town of Hormigueros, said she was left without power following a strong gust of wind and rain that began around noon.
‘Since then it hasn’t stopped,’ she said. ‘It is raining heavily and the wind is blowing hard. I’m calm, but alert.’
Nelson Cirino secures the windows of his home as the winds of Hurricane Fiona blow in Loiza, Puerto Rico
Residents prepare for the arrival of Hurricane Fiona, in Loiza, Puerto Rico on Saturday
A man stands in front of a beach before the arrival of Hurricane Fiona in San Juan
Fiona was forecast to swipe past the Dominican Republic on Monday and then northern Haiti and the Turks and Caicos Islands with the threat of heavy rain. It could threaten the far southern end of the Bahamas on Tuesday.
A hurricane warning was posted for the Dominican Republic’s eastern coast from Cabo Caucedo to Cabo Frances Viejo.
Fiona previously battered the eastern Caribbean, killing one man in the French territory of Guadeloupe when floods washed his home away in the Basse-Terre district, officials said.
France will recognize a state of natural disaster for Guadeloupe, President Emmanuel Macron said on Twitter on Sunday.
The storm also damaged roads, uprooted trees and destroyed at least one bridge.
Roads were flooded on Guadeloupe and there appeared to be some damage to vegetation
A September 17 photo shows the aftermath of the Fiona storm in Capesterre-Belle-Eau, on the French island of Guadeloupe
A cyclist rides his bike in a flooded street due to the passage of the Fiona storm in Capesterre-Belle-Eau, on the French island of Guadeloupe
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