Puerto Rico suffers catastrophic damages from Hurricane Fiona (includes video story)

When Hurricane Fiona threatened Puerto Rico Sunday, Dariana Ramirez, who lives in Dorado, just west of San Juan on the north coast, had to evacuate after her house flooded. She grabbed her two sons but had to leave her three dogs. After a night in a hotel, she found the flood had destroyed her car and everything on the first floor.

“The water was so high that my children could drown,“ Ramirez said. “I lost everything on the first floor of the house.” 

Fiona, the first major hurricane of 2022, ripped through Puerto Rico Sunday, dropping more than 30 inches of rain, killing two and causing the entire island to lose power. The storm continued on to the Dominican Republic, where it left one person dead and scores of homes and businesses damaged. Both islands are cleaning up this morning as Fiona moves northwest. 

So far it is not expected to hit Florida or the East Coast as a trough steers the winds out to sea.

The damage from Fiona traces back at least five years. On September 20, 2017, Puerto Rico was hit by one of the strongest hurricanes in the history of the island. Maria, a category 5 Hurricane that left the entire island without power, water service, gas and with no communication for months.  

Many lost their homes, family members and everything they owned. Since then, the island has had a hard time recovering. In 2020, Puerto Rico was hit one more time, this time with a magnitude 6.5 earthquake that tragically left them with fallen buildings, landslides, collapsed houses, and weakness in building architecture. 

On Sunday September 18 around 2 p.m. Fiona hit the island with 100 mph winds and extremely heavy rains. It caused floods in areas that no one thought could happen, many landslides and the collapse of two bridges due to the rivers overflowing. All of the island lost power and some sectors had no water service. Anxiety and uncertainty hit  many residents since they thought they might go months without help.

Some of the areas in Puerto Rico that were severely affected by Fiona: the southwest and center of the island including towns like Cabo Rojo, Guanica, Mayaguez, Salinas, San German, Utuado and Hormigueros. These areas are almost completely flooded and are expected to keep flooding since they are expecting heavy rain until Wednesday. 

In the town of Salinas,. thousands of families are still waiting to be rescued. Too many families need evacuation. Other towns evacuated families from sectors where the floods were increasing. The rural areas of the island are very affected right now as they have power lines and poles on the ground.  Also, roads are completely obstructed by trees, landslides and powerlines.

In addition to the terrible floods and landslides, cancer patients have been transferred due to issues with generator.Health Secretary Carlos Mellado said crews rushed to repair generators at the island’s  Comprehensive Cancer Center, where several patients had to be evacuated, according to the Associated Press.

As the island tries to start recovering and getting families that lost everything back on their feet, many nonprofit organizations are working together to help families affected by Fiona. They have started to gather canned food, hygiene items, clothes, baby clothes and diapers, among other necessities. Some of the non profit organizations that you can contact to donate are: Taller Salud, La Fondita de Jesus, Brigada Solidaria del Oeste, Techos Pa’ Mi Gente and BRemergency.org.  

To Dariana Ramirez, whose house was flooded, Fiona caused more emotional than physical damage.  “I just want to help others,” she said.

*Video story by Nicole Castañeda. Print story by Fabiola Ojeda.*

Fabiola Ojeda is a senior at Florida International University majoring in Digital Media and Journalism. She enjoys communicating with others and is very passionate about covering stories, interviewing and communicating a message to an audience. She is latina born and raised in Puerto Rico with dreams of becoming a news reporter and TV anchor one day.

Nicole Castañeda is a psychologist and designer double major at Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá and has a master degree in Clinical Psychology and Logo-therapy. She is currently doing her masters in Spanish Journalism at Florida International University. She is passionate about fashion and journalism and her goal is to be able to work as a reporter in a Latin American channel.