Two killed as Hurricane Fiona intensifies

·2-min read

Hurricane Fiona is churning north after bringing torrential rain and powerful winds to the Dominican Republic and triggering a total power outage in neighbouring Puerto Rico, where at least two people died.

The Category 2 hurricane will likely become a Category 3 as it moves across warm Caribbean waters toward the Turks and Caicos.

The National Hurricane Center upgraded Fiona to a Category 2, with winds of 169 kph, on Monday night.

The centre of Fiona is expected to pass near or to the east of the archipelago, subject to a current hurricane warning, on Tuesday.

Tropical storm conditions were also expected in the Bahamas.

After strafing Puerto Rico, Fiona made landfall in the Dominican Republic near Boca Yuma on Monday. The centre of the storm reached the northern coast of Hispaniola before midday.

It is the first hurricane to score a direct hit on the Dominican Republic since Jeanne left severe damage in the east of the country in September 2018.

Fiona caused severe flooding, leaving several villages isolated, and some 800 evacuees and more than 11,000 people without power in the eastern region of the country.

"The damage is considerable," Dominican Republic President Luis Abinader said.

He plans to declare a state of disaster in the provinces of La Altagracia, where the famed resort of Punta Cana is located, El Seibo and Hato Mayor.

In La Altagracia, where the hurricane made landfall Monday morning, the overflow of the Yuma River damaged agricultural areas and left several towns isolated.

Electric and water utilities are working to restore services.

In Puerto Rico, a territory of the United States, residents are facing strong winds, frequent lightning and heavy rain.

Fiona made landfall there on Sunday afternoon, dumping up to 76.2cm of rain in some areas.

The storm comes five years after Puerto Rico was ravaged by Hurricane Maria, which triggered the worst power blackout in US history.

US President Joe Biden spoke with Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Pierluisi on Monday and promised to increase support personnel on the island.

Nearly 90 per cent of Puerto Rico remained without power on Monday. Officials said it would take days to reconnect the whole island of 3.3 million people.

Many roads were left impassable due to downed trees and mudslides. Cars are submerged, people are wading in waist-deep water and rescue boats are floating down swamped streets.

Hundreds of responders were assisting in recovery efforts after President Biden declared an emergency for the island, allowing FEMA to co-ordinate disaster relief and provide emergency protective measures.

Pierluisi said the government's response had been more efficient than during Hurricane Maria, which became highly politicised with former President Donald Trump's administration criticised for being too slow to provide disaster relief - a claim it refuted.