NEW YORK (WABC) – Hurricane Fiona slammed into the Dominican Republic on Monday, knocking out all of Puerto Rico, causing damage that Gov. Pedro Pierluisi called “catastrophic,” and New York pledged to help.
At least 1 person has died in Puerto Rico, a resident of Arecibo who tried to fill his running generator with gasoline, causing a fire, officials said.
At least 2 more people died at the shelter from natural causes but were not listed as storm-related deaths, Pierluisi said, and he warned residents that more rain was expected on the island by Tuesday evening.
“The damage we’re seeing is catastrophic,” Pierluisi said. “We are going through a difficult time, but our people are strong and very generous.”
LUMA Energy said only 100,000 of its 1.5 million customers had power on the island and helicopters were in the air surveying the damage. Only 30% of households on the island have potable water after rivers rose and heavy rainfall affected the system.
WATCH: Hurricane Hunters video from inside Fiona
Pierluisi said the goal is for “a large number of LUMA customers” to have power “within several days,” in contrast to what LUMA said in a statement Sunday that “it may take several days to fully restore power.” .
Fiona’s impact was all the more devastating because Puerto Rico has yet to recover from Hurricane Maria, which killed nearly 3,000 people and knocked out the power grid in 2017. Five years later, more than 3,000 houses on the island still have a blue tarp on the roof.
Areas of the island that don’t normally experience flooding will see unprecedented rainfall, and some areas will end the storm with 35 inches of rain — 5 inches less than Maria’s total.
“It’s important for people to understand that it’s not over yet,” said Ernesto Morales, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in San Juan, who said the flooding had reached “historic levels.”
The most affected regions are in the south, southwest and central mountain range, according to the governor, who noted that areas on the northern coast will also be affected due to the flow of water.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced that the state is mobilizing relief and recovery efforts, and in response to Pierluisi’s request, the state is sending 100 Spanish-speaking police and emergency workers to Puerto Rico and drones to the Dominican Republic.
WATCH: Governor Hachul announces aid after Hurricane Fiona.
New York City is also working with the Red Cross, SOMOS and other partners to send medical and other supplies, and teams from the New York Energy Authority are ready to deploy and help restore power to the island.
“New York knows all too well the devastation that Mother Nature can inflict, and that’s why we stand ready to help the people of Puerto Rico recover and recover from this terrible storm,” said Hachul. “Our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico are incredibly resilient, but in times like these, New York will be there to help in any way we can, including sending personnel and resources to help the island and its people recover.”
Pierluisi said he expected a similar response from New Jersey.
Authorities have rescued more than 1,000 people, including a woman rescued Sunday who was stuck in a tree for seven hours after trying to look at the damage, officials said, adding that more than 2,100 people were in 113 shelters across the island.
According to the governor, hospitals are now running on generators.
The island’s National Weather Service said flash flooding was occurring in south-central Puerto Rico and tweeted: “DO NOT GO TO HEIGHTS!”
Water service was cut off to more than 837,000 customers — two-thirds of the island’s total — due to cloudy water at filtration plants or a lack of electricity, officials said.
Before dawn on Monday, authorities navigated the flooded streets of the northern coastal city of Catana by boat and used a megaphone to warn people that the pumps had collapsed and urged them to evacuate as soon as possible.
Brown water poured down streets, into homes and covered an airstrip in southern Puerto Rico.
The system also ripped asphalt off roads and washed away a bridge in the central mountain town of Utuada, which police said had been installed by the National Guard after Category 4 storm Maria.
Fiona also tore roofs off houses, including Nelson Chirin in the northern coastal town of Loiza.
“I was sleeping and I saw the corrugated metal fly off,” he said, watching as the rain drenched his belongings and the wind blew up his colorful curtains.
Fiona’s center was about 10 miles southeast of Samana in the Dominican Republic Monday morning, with maximum sustained winds of 85 mph, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center. It was moving northwest at 8 mph.
Tropical storm force winds extended 140 miles from the center.
The storm is expected to move into the Atlantic in the afternoon and pass near the Turks and Caicos Islands on Tuesday. Forecasters say it could approach Bermuda as a major hurricane late Thursday or Friday.
On Monday, authorities announced that power had been restored to 100,000 customers on the island of 3.2 million people, but power distribution company Luma said it could take several days to fully restore service.
US President Joe Biden declared a state of emergency as the eye of the storm approached the southwestern corner of the island.
Puerto Rico’s medical centers were running on generators, and some were down. Health Minister Carlos Melado said that crews rushed to repair generators at the complex oncology center, where several patients had to be evacuated.
Fiona previously ravaged the eastern Caribbean, killing one man in the French territory of Guadeloupe when flooding washed away his home, officials said.
The system made landfall in Puerto Rico on the anniversary of Hurricane Hugo, which hit the island in 1989 as a Category 3 storm.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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