Hurricane Fiona struck Puerto Rico’s southwest coast on Sunday as it unleashed landslides, knocked the power grid out and ripped up asphalt from roads and flung the pieces around. Hundreds of people were evacuated or rescued across the island as floodwaters rose swiftly. Rushing rivers of brown water enveloped cars, first floors and even an airport runway in the island’s southern region.
Forecasters said the storm threatened to dump “historic” levels of rain, with up to 76cm possible in eastern and southern Puerto Rico. “The damages that we are seeing are catastrophic,” said governor Pedro Pierluisi.
The storm 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. Large landslides also were reported, with water rushing down big slabs of broken asphalt and into gullies.
Fiona was centred 75km south-southeast of Punta Cana, Dominican Republic with maximum sustained winds of 140kph on Sunday night, according to the US National Hurricane Center. It was moving to the west-northwest at 17kph.