Puerto Rico dam failure prompts mass evacuation
Puerto Rican officials rushed to evacuate some 70,000 people downstream of a failing dam in the wake of Hurricane Maria, while at least six people were confirmed dead on the US Caribbean territory following the storm.
The US National Weather Service (NWS) issued a flash flood emergency at the Guajataca Dam in Isabela Municipality, saying on Twitter that it was “an extremely dangerous situation” and that buses were evacuating residents from their homes “as quickly as they can”.
Dam operators had reported that the dam was “failing causing flash flooding downstream”, the service said.
“All Areas surrounding the Guajataca River should evacuate NOW. Their lives are in DANGER!,” the service said later.
An engineer inspecting the dam reported a “contained breach” that officials quickly realised was a crack that could be the first sign of total failure of the dam, said Anthony Reynes, a meteorologist with NWS.
— NWS San Juan (@NWSSanJuan) September 22, 2017
The evacuation came as at least six people were confirmed dead in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria pummelled the region.
Storms are getting worse and it’s all our fault
Puerto Rican public safety officials confirmed six deaths, while the governor separately put the figure at 13.
The storm had left more than 30 dead as it churned across the Caribbean, according to media reports. The death toll was expected to rise as recovery efforts continued, with many areas still cut off from contact with authorities.
The Category 3 storm was about 185km east-north-east of the south-eastern Bahamas Friday evening, with winds of 205 kilometres per hour. Tropical storm warnings were in place for the Bahamas, the US National Hurricane Center said in its 5pm EDT (21:00 GMT) advisory.
Rainfall of up to 50 centimetres was expected on the Turks and Caicos islands. The storm was expected to have brought up to 100 centimetres of rain to some areas of Puerto Rico, forecasters said.
Puerto Rico, where some of the population of 3.4 million had been without power since Hurricane Irma in early September, was completely blacked out after Maria. Authorities were warning of power outages lasting for months.
US President Donald Trump pledged support to both Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands as they recover from hurricanes Maria and Irma, the White House said.
|A flooded street in Catano municipality [Alvin Baez/Reuters]|
Source: News agencies