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Governor Pedro Pierluisi said Puerto Rico had suffered “catastrophic” damage from Hurricane Fiona, with heavy rains expected to continue through tomorrow.
Pierluisi urged residents to remain indoors in their homes or in shelters as the storm continued to rage.
“In many areas that had never seen flooding, there has been an unprecedented accumulation of water. In fact, in many areas it was greater than what we saw during Hurricane Maria,” he said.
READ MORE: After knocking out power in Puerto Rico, Hurricane Fiona slams Dominican Republic
Pierluisi said the U.S. territory’s energy company was working to restore power after it was knocked out across the island.
No deaths had been reported, but authorities said it was too early to know the full scope of the damage.
Up to 22 inches (56 centimeters) of rain had fallen in some areas of Puerto Rico and forecasters said another 4 to 8 inches could fall – perhaps up to 15 inches in some places – even as the storm moves away.
Fiona was centered about 10 miles (15 kilometers) southeast of Samana in the Dominican Republic, with maximum sustained winds of 85 mph (140 kph) on Monday morning, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center. It was moving to the northwest at 8 mph (13 kph).
The blow from Fiona was made more devastating because Puerto Rico has yet to recover from Hurricane Maria, which killed nearly 3,000 people and destroyed the power grid in 2017. Five years later, more than 3,000 homes on the island still have blue tarps for a roof.
The wind and water from Fiona stripped the pavement from roads, tore off roofs and sent torrents pouring into homes. The storm also took out a bridge and flooded an airport runway.
Authorities reported no deaths directly from Fiona, but Puerto Rico officials said it was too early to know the full scope of damage. The storm was still expected to unleash torrential rain across the U.S. territory.
The island’s National Weather Service office said flash flooding was occurring in south-central parts of Puerto Rico and tweeted, “MOVE TO HIGHER GROUND IMMEDIATELY!”
“It’s important people understand that this is not over,” said Ernesto Morales, a weather service meteorologist in San Juan.
He said flooding reached “historic levels,” with authorities evacuating or rescuing hundreds of people across Puerto Rico.
Water service was cut to more than 837,000 customers — two thirds of the total on the island — because of turbid water at filtration plants or lack of power, officials said.
Before dawn Monday, authorities in a boat navigated the flooded streets of the north coast town of Catano and used a megaphone to alert people that the pumps had collapsed, urging them to evacuate as soon as possible.
Authorities said at least 1,300 people spent the night in shelters across the island.
Brown water rushed through streets, into homes and covered a runway in southern Puerto Rico.
The system also ripped asphalt from roads and washed away a bridge in the central mountain town of Utuado that police said was installed by the National Guard after Maria hit as a Category 4 storm.
Fiona also tore the roofs off homes, including that of Nelson Cirino in the northern coastal town of Loiza.
“I was sleeping and saw when the corrugated metal flew off,” he said as he watched rain drench his belongings and wind whip his colorful curtains into the air.
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