SAN SALVADOR, Puerto Rico (TN) — President Joe Biden said Thursday that the full force of the federal government is ready to help Puerto Rico recover from the devastation of Hurricane Fiona, even as Bermuda and Canada The Atlantic provinces were also preparing for a major eruption from the range. 4 storms.
Speaking at a briefing with Federal Emergency Management Agency officials in New York, Biden said, “We’re all in this together.”
Biden noted that hundreds of FEMA and other federal officials are already on the ground in Puerto Rico, where Fiona caused an island-wide blackout.
More than 60% of electricity customers were without energy on Thursday, and a third of customers were without water – and local officials acknowledged they could not say when service would be fully restored.
Biden said his message to the people of Puerto Rico, who are still hurt by Hurricane Maria five years ago, was, “We are with you. We are not going away.”
It seemed to draw a contrast with former President Donald Trump, who has been widely accused of an inadequate response to Maria, which left some Puerto Ricans without power for 11 months.
The storm was expected to remain Category 4 strength overnight as it passed near Bermuda, where officials opened shelters and announced schools and offices would remain closed Friday.
Fiona’s outside bands were already reaching British territory in the afternoon.
It is still expected to become large and dangerously powerful when it reaches the Atlantic provinces of Canada, possibly late Friday, as a tropical cyclone.
“It’s going to be a storm that everyone remembers when it’s all said and done,” said Bob Robichaud, a preparedness meteorologist for the Canadian Hurricane Center.
Hundreds of people remained cut off from the road in Puerto Rico four days after the storm hit US territory, and despair was growing for people like Nancy Galarza, who tried to signal for help from a remotely watched work crew. .
“Everyone out there,” he said, pointing to the crew at the bottom of the mountain who were also helping others who were cut off by the storm. “No one comes here to see us. I am concerned for all the elders in this community.”
At least five landslides covered the narrow road to its community in the steep mountains around the northern city of Caguas. The only way to reach the settlement is to climb thick hills of mud, rock and rubble left behind by Fiona, whose floodwaters shook the foundations of nearby houses with an earthquake-like force.
“The rocks sounded like thunder,” recalled 47-year-old school janitor Vanessa Flores. “I’ve never heard of that in my life. It was so lousy.”
At least one elderly woman who depends on oxygen was evacuated Thursday by city officials who were working under a torrential downpour to clear paths for a San Salvador community.
Ramiro Figueroa, 63, said his 97-year-old father, lying on his bed, refused to leave the house despite the request of rescuers. Their road was blocked by mud, rocks, trees and her sister’s pickup, which was swept off the hill during the storm.
National Guard soldiers and others brought water, cereal, canned peaches and two bottles of apple juice.
“It has helped me a lot,” Figueroa said as he scanned the devastated landscape where a river had changed its course and torn apart the community.
At least eight of the 11 communities in Caguas are completely isolated, said Luis González, municipal inspector for recovery and reconstruction. It is one of at least six municipalities where employees have yet to reach certain areas. People there often rely on the help of neighbors, as they did in 2017 after Hurricane Maria, a Category 4 hurricane that killed nearly 3,000 people.
Miguel Veguilla said that after Maria he used shovels and shovels to clear the debris. But Fiona was different, unleashing a huge landslide.
“I can’t throw those rocks over my shoulder,” he said.
Like hundreds of thousands in Puerto Rico, Veguilla does not have water or electricity service, but is said to have a natural water source nearby.
Danciel Rivera, 31, arrived in rural Caguas with a church group and tried to bring a little excitement by dressing up as a clown.
“It’s very important in these moments,” he said, noting that people never fully recovered from Hurricane Maria. “A lot of PTSD has raised its head these days.”
Greeting the people, his giant clown shoes swung through the mud, whose faces lit up as they looked at him.
Puerto Rico’s government said some 62% of the 1.47 million customers were without electricity on Thursday. A third or more than 400,000 customers did not yet have water service.
“Many homes and businesses are still without electricity” Biden said in New York, with additional utility teams prepared to travel to the island in the coming days to help restore power.
Puerto Rico’s executive director of the Electric Energy Authority, Josue Colón, told a news conference that areas less affected by Fiona should have electricity by Friday morning. But officials declined to say when power would be restored in the hardest-hit places and said they were working earlier to get energy to hospitals and other major infrastructure.
Neither local nor federal government officials provided an overall estimate of damage from the storm, which fell as much as 30 inches in some areas.
The US center said Fiona had maximum sustained winds of 130 mph (215 kph) on Thursday. It was centered about 345 miles (550 kph) southwest of Bermuda, moving toward the north-northeast at 16 mph (26 kph).
Hurricane-force winds extended outward for 70 miles (110 kilometers) from the center, and tropical-storm-force winds extended outward for 205 miles (335 kilometers).
Bermuda Premier David Burtt tweeted urging residents to “take care of yourself and your families”. Let us all remember to check in with our superiors, family and neighbors as well. stay safe.”
The Canadian Hurricane Center issued a Hurricane Watch over a wide coastal extension of Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island.
Hurricanes are somewhat rare in Canada, because once storms reach colder waters, they lose their main source of energy. and become very tropical. Those cyclones may still have hurricane-strength winds, but now have a cold instead of a warm core and no visible ones. Their size may also vary. They lose their symmetrical form and may resemble commas.
Fiona has so far been blamed for at least five deaths – two in Puerto Rico, two in the Dominican Republic and one in the French overseas department of Guadeloupe.
Fiona also hit the Turks and Caicos Islands on Tuesday, but officials there reported relatively light damage and no deaths.
Today Nation News writers Zeke Miller in Washington, Seth Borenstein in New York, Rob Gillies in Toronto and MariCarmen Rivera Sanchez in San Juan, Puerto Rico contributed.