Hurricane Fiona strengthened into a Category 4 storm Wednesday after devastating, then lashing the and the . It was forecast to squeeze past Bermuda later this week.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Fiona had maximum sustained winds of 130 mph on Wednesday afternoon and it was centered about 650 miles southwest of Bermuda, heading north at 8 mph.
It was likely to approach Bermuda late Thursday and then Canada’s Atlantic provinces late Friday. The U.S. State Department issued an advisory Tuesday night telling U.S. citizens to “reconsider travel” to Bermuda.
The storm has been blamed for directly causing at least four deaths in its march through the Caribbean, where winds and torrential rain in Puerto Rico left a majority of people on the U.S. territory without power or running water. Hundreds of thousands of people scraped mud out of their homes following what authorities described as “historic” flooding.
Power company officials initially said it would take a few days for electricity to be fully restored, but then appeared to backtrack late Tuesday night. As of Wednesday afternoon, three days after Fiona hit the island, roughly 70% of customers lacked electricity, according to government figures.
“Hurricane Fiona has severely impacted electrical infrastructure and generation facilities throughout the island. We want to make it very clear that efforts to restore and reenergize continue and are being affected by severe flooding, impassable roads, downed trees, deteriorating equipment, and downed lines,” said Luma, the company that operates power transmission and distribution.
Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Pierluisi said, “I continue to hope that by the end of today, a large part of the population will have these services.”
Pierluisi tweeted Wednesday afternoon that the federal government had approved a major disaster declaration request in response to Fiona. Earlier Wednesday, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) had said the request was still under review. President Biden on Sunday approved an emergency declaration for the hurricane.
Deanne Criswell, the head of FEMA, traveled to Puerto Rico on Tuesday as the agency announced it was sending hundreds of additional personnel to boost local response efforts.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also declared a public health emergency on the island and deployed a couple of teams to the island.
The storm killed a man in the French overseas territory of Guadeloupe, another man in Puerto Rico who was swept away by a swollen river and two people in the Dominican Republic: one killed by a falling tree and the other by a falling electric post.
Two additional deaths were reported in Puerto Rico as a result of the blackout: A 70-year-old man burned to death after he tried to fill his generator with gasoline while it was running and a 78-year-old man police say inhaled…