Hurricane Fiona made landfall on Puerto Rico’s southwest coast on Sunday, causing an island-wide power outage and threatening to dump “historic” amounts of rain.
Forecasters predicted landslides and catastrophic flooding, with up to 25 inches (64 centimetres) of rain possible in isolated areas.
“It’s time to act and be concerned,” said Puerto Rico’s emergency management commissioner, Nino Correa.
According to the US National Hurricane Center, Fiona made landfall about 15 miles (25 kilometres) south-southeast of Mayaguez with maximum sustained winds of 85 mph (140 kph). It was moving northwest at 9 mph (15 kph).
Tropical-storm-force winds extended as far as 140 miles (220 kilometres) from Fiona’s centre.
As the eye of the storm approached the island’s southwest corner, US President Joe Biden declared a state of emergency.
Luma, the company in charge of power transmission and distribution, said bad weather had disrupted transmission lines, resulting in “a blackout on the entire island.”
“Current weather conditions are extremely dangerous and are hindering our capacity to evaluate the complete situation,” it said, adding that it could take several days to fully restore power.
Health centres were powered by generators, some of which had failed.
Health Secretary Carlos Mellado stated that crews were working to repair generators at the Comprehensive Cancer Center as soon as possible.
Fiona struck just two days before the anniversary of Hurricane Maria, a devastating Category 4 storm that hit the island on September 20, 2017, destroying the power grid and killing nearly 3,000 people.