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Hurricane Fiona heads for Bermuda, up to 8 dead in Puerto Rico

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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico, Sept 21 (Reuters) – Hurricane Fiona strengthened into a powerful Category 4 storm on Wednesday as it tracked towards Bermuda after blazing a destructive path through the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, where the storm left most people without power and up to eight dead.

After making landfall in Puerto Rico on Sunday, Fiona caused devastating flooding and landslides on the island. Over the next two days, the storm gained momentum as it entered the Dominican Republic and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Fiona carried winds of up to 130 miles per hour (215 km per hour) on Wednesday and was expected to strengthen as it moved north towards Bermuda, although no direct hits are expected for British territory, said said the US National Hurricane Center (NHC). . Fiona could reach the Atlantic coast of Canada on Friday.

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Eric Blake, acting branch chief for the NHC in Miami, said Bermuda would see strong surf, storm surge, heavy rain and strong winds even if Fiona continued on her current track and passed west of the island. Bermuda will see the worst of the storm on Thursday night, the NHC said.

“Hopefully the core of the storm will stay in the west, but it could still move east and hit Bermuda,” Blake said, adding that the US east coast will experience heavy swells and currents. of tearing as the storm headed into Canada.

“It will be a big problem up there,” he told Reuters, referring to Fiona’s trajectory to the Atlantic Canadian provinces of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador.

In Puerto Rico, where 40% of the island’s 3.3 million people were still without water and three-quarters lacked electricity, authorities were trying to determine the extent of the destruction and start rebuilding.

Fiona is believed to have caused at least eight deaths, including that of a sick 4-month-old baby whose mother had difficulty getting to the hospital due to blocked roads, said Dr Maria Conte Miller, director of the Institute of forensic sciences, at a round table on Tuesday. Deaths are under investigation.

The US Federal Emergency Management Agency has so far attributed four deaths to the storm in Puerto Rico. A fifth person was killed in Guadeloupe earlier this week.

For many Puerto Ricans, the memory of Hurricane Maria in 2017 is still fresh. Some 3,000 people died in the Category 5 storm, which left the entire island without power for a week. Read more

Marylou Maldonado, 45, a saleswoman from the town of Camuy in northwestern Puerto Rico, said water was restored to her residence on Tuesday, but the governor and utility company did not kept their promise to restore electricity to his region.

“People are under a lot of stress,” she said. “Here in this zone, the crisis is emotional. It’s emotional because of the frustration of not having electricity and being lied to.”

An estimated 1.07 million homes and businesses remained without power in Puerto Rico as of noon Wednesday, according to LUMA Energy, which said it could take several days to fully restore all 1.5 million customers. Read more

The Bermuda Meteorological Service has issued a tropical storm warning for British territory, 600 miles (966 km) east of the US state of North Carolina. Hurricane-force winds are a possibility depending on the storm’s track, he said.

Michelle Pitcher, the service’s deputy director, said the country was “like a point sticking out of the ocean” that had no protective shorelines, meaning severe flooding was more dangerous.

Even so, Pitcher said, Bermuda is ready for what Fiona has in store for the island.

“People in Bermuda are very used to preparing for storms,” ​​she said. “We build strong houses.”

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Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta and Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Jonathan Oatis and Richard Chang

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