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Hurricane Fiona makes landfall in Puerto Rico

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San Juan, Sep 19: Hurricane Fiona hit Puerto Rico's southwestern coast on Sunday, unleashing landslides and ripping up asphalt from roads.

Earlier on Sunday, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) declared that Fiona, which was barreling towards Puerto Rico, had strengthened into a hurricane after having begun as a tropical storm.

Hurricane Fiona makes landfall in Puerto Rico

The storm also washed away a bridge in the central mountain town of Utuado.

The center of the storm made landfall on Puerto Rico's southwestern coast at 3:20 pm local time (1920 GMT).

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The storm had maximum sustained winds of about 85 miles (140 kilometers) per hour, making it a Category 1 hurricane, the NHC said.

NHC expects 'catastrophic' flooding

"Hurricane Fiona could produce storm surge flooding of 1 to 3 ft (30 to 90 centimeters) above normally dry ground along the eastern and southern coast of Puerto Rico and the islands of Vieques and Culebra," the NHC tweeted.

Later on Sunday, the NHC posted: "Hurricane Flood Advisory; Eye of Fiona Very Near the Southwest Coast of Puerto Rico. Catastrophic Flooding Expected Across Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic."

The upgrade to hurricane status comes as locals braced for severe wind and potentially unprecedented levels of rain.

Forecasters said the conditions were expected to spark landslides and heavy flooding, with up to 25 inches (64 centimeters) possible in some isolated parts of the the US island territory.

The weather has left hundreds of thousands without power and the president of the Puerto Rican electrical industry union, Figueroa Jaramillo, reported a nationwide power outage. He wrote on Twitter: "Urgent Black out! 100% of the country without service."

'Time to be concerned'

"It's time to take action and be concerned," said Nino Correa, Puerto Rico's emergency management commissioner.

Fiona was centered 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of Ponce, Puerto Rico, as of Sunday morning. The hurricane had maximum sustained winds of 80 mph (130 kph) and was moving west-northwesterly at 8 mph (13 kph).

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Anxiety ran high across Puerto Rico with Fiona due just two days before the anniversary of Hurricane Maria.

Maria was a Category 4 storm that destroyed parts of the island in 2017, including the island's power grid, with the devastation resulting in 3,000 fatalities. Maria left half of the island's residents without power for at least three months.

Currently, over 3,000 homes still have only a blue tarp as a roof. Infrastructure remains extremely vulnerable while 43.4% of the population lives below the poverty line, amounting to some 1.4 million people, according to US government data.

Source: DW

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