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Half a million Puerto Ricans still without water, power three days after Hurricane Fiona

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More than half a million people in Puerto Rico are still without water three days after being slammed by Hurricane Fiona earlier this week, according to government figures. 

As of Wednesday afternoon local time, roughly 70 per cent of Puerto Rican customers were also without electricity. 

Ponce, in southern Puerto Rico, was one of the towns badly hit by the hurricane.

Heavy rains washed out roads and houses and left neighbourhoods isolated without water and electricity.

Fiona poured about 60 centimetres of rain into some parts of the country before blasting across the eastern Dominican Republic and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

The storm was on a track to pass close by Bermuda late Thursday or Friday as a category four, and then hit easternmost Canada by late Friday, according to the US National Hurricane Center.

On Wednesday, city workers and the Puerto Rico National Guard drove trucks full of water bottles to distribute to various neighbourhoods in the town of Salinas in southern Puerto Rico, where residents have had no clean drinking water since Sunday.

Rafael Ramos said his house was flooded, and part of the back had collapsed.

“I lost everything,” he said. 

The storm wreaked havoc on Puerto Rico’s power grid, which had been patched but never fully rebuilt after Hurricane Maria caused a blackout that lasted 11 months in some places in 2017.

An aerial image of widespread flooding over green fields.
A satellite image shows flooded fields in the aftermath of Hurricane Fiona in Arecibo, Puerto Rico.(Reuters: Maxar Technologies)

Power company officials initially said it would take a few days for electricity to be restored but then appeared to backtrack on Tuesday night, saying they faced numerous obstacles.

US President Joe Biden on Wednesday approved a major disaster declaration, allowing more federal assistance.

Meanwhile, the US Department of Health and Human Services declared a public health emergency in Puerto Rico and deployed a couple of teams to the island.

AP

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