Puerto Rico struggles to reach areas cut off by Hurricane Fiona

View of a house that was washed away by Hurricane Fiona at Villa Esperanza in Salinas, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, September 21, 2022. (AP Photo/Alejandro Granadillo)

Hurricane Fiona left hundreds of people stranded across Puerto Rico after smashing roads and bridges, with authorities still struggling to reach them four days after the storm smacked the United States territory, causing historic flooding.

Government officials have been working with religious groups, nonprofits, and others, braving landslides, thick mud, and broken asphalt by foot to provide food, water, and medicine for people in need, but they are under pressure to clear a path so vehicles can enter isolated areas soon.

Nino Correa, the commissioner for Puerto Rico’s emergency management agency, estimated that at least six municipalities across the island had areas that were cut off by Fiona, which struck as a Category 1 hurricane and was up to Category 4 power Thursday as it headed toward Bermuda.

Manuel Veguilla said he has been unable to leave his neighborhood in the northern mountain town of Caguas since Fiona swept in on Sunday.

“We are all isolated,” he said, adding that he worries about elderly neighbors, including his older brother, who does not have the strength for the long walk it takes to reach the closest community.

Veguilla heard that municipal officials might open a pathway Thursday, but he doubted that would happen because +large rocks covered a nearby bridge and the 10-foot space beneath it.

Fiona sparked an islandwide blackout when it hit Puerto Rico’s southwest region, which was already still trying to recover from a series of strong earthquakes in recent years.

Some 62% of 1.47 million customers remained without power Thursday, four days after the storm, amid an extreme heat alert issued by the National Weather Service. Some 36% of customers, or nearly half a million, did not have water service.


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