Hurricane leaves 500,000 without water in Puerto Rico

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More than half a million people in Puerto Rico were still without running water on Thursday, four days after Hurricane Fiona, causing many to line up for hours to fill jerrycans with water transported by tanker trucks and others to collect water from mountains.

Sweat poured down the faces of people in a long line of cars in the mountainous town of Caguas, in the north of the island, where the government had brought a water truck, one of 18 so-called “oases” installed throughout the island.

The setback has been exasperating for many on an island that has once again run out of basic services after a storm passed.

“We thought that with María we had had a bad experience, but this was definitely worse,” said Gerardo Rodríguez in the coastal town of Salinas, in the south of the island, referring to the 2017 hurricane that caused almost 3,000 deaths and wiped out power lines. island electric.

Fiona dumped almost 60 centimeters (2 feet) of rain in parts of Puerto Rico before lashing the eastern Dominican Republic and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

With the strength of a category 4 hurricane, the storm is heading towards the outskirts of Bermuda and could reach the eastern tip of Canada late on Friday, according to the United States National Hurricane Center (NHC for its acronym in English).

The storm wreaked havoc on Puerto Rico’s power grid, which had been repaired but never fully rebuilt after Maria caused an 11-month blackout in some places.

As of Wednesday afternoon, about 70 percent of Puerto Rican customers lacked power, according to government figures.

shot of patriotism

In Caguas, the air conditioning in Emayra Veguilla’s car was not working, so the 34-year-old bus driver placed a small fan in the passenger seat. Earlier that day, she had played the song “Hijos del Cañaveral,” written by Puerto Rican hip-hop star René Pérez as an ode to Puerto Rico and the bravery of its people.

“I needed a shot of patriotism,” he said. “I needed to gain strength to face this again.”

Veguilla had waited in line on Tuesday, only to be told the water had run out and another truck wouldn’t be available until the next day.

Some people ahead of Veguilla gave up and walked away, the tension building as people waited.

“Move over!” yelled a driver, afraid that people would try to cut in.

Some of those who saw the line chose to drive to a nearby road where the water ran down the side of the mountain through a bamboo pipe someone had installed.

keep attacking

The storm is still expected to be at Category 4 strength as it approaches Bermuda overnight Thursday, and still dangerous when it reaches Atlantic Canada, likely late Friday, as an extratropical cyclone.

“It’s going to be a very big storm when it makes landfall,” said Bob Robichaud, a meteorologist with the Canadian Hurricane Center. “It will cover a fairly large area.”

Canadian authorities are preparing for the possibility of flooding, mudslides, storm surge and power outages.

hard work

For their part, authorities in Puerto Rico are working with religious groups, NGOs, and others who are braving landslides, thick mud, and broken asphalt to get food, water, and medicine on foot to those who need it most, but are under pressure to clear roads that allow the arrival of vehicles to isolated areas.

The US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) sent hundreds of additional workers to help local officials, while the federal government approved a major disaster declaration and declared a public health emergency on the island.

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