– Bermuda holds her breath before Fiona passes out
Bermuda was bracing Thursday for the powerful Category 4 Hurricane Fiona that wreaked havoc in the Caribbean.
Deck chairs and umbrellas are stacked, storefronts are boarded up, and the beam of light from the lighthouse shows the clouds rushing past. Faced with increasingly strong winds and waves, residents of Bermuda, a British territory in the Caribbean, took shelter in their homes during the night.
Hurricane Fiona is expected to pass 180 km west of the archipelago at around 4:00 a.m. (0700 GMT) on Friday and may be downgraded to a Category 3, according to Bermuda Weather Services. But because of the size and strength of the hurricane, it’s time to be cautious. Prime Minister David Burt tweeted: “I encourage everyone to prepare adequately for this storm. “Take care of yourself and your family.”
In the capital Hamilton, Richard Hartley, with the help of his wife, spent an afternoon fitting metal plates to the windows of his shop. “The wind comes directly from the south. This corner is very exposed to the wind,” he told AFP.
According to the Miami-based National Hurricane Center (NHC), the storm has maximum sustained winds of 215 km/h. It is heading north and should affect the coast of Canada as well.
In Bermuda, a much smaller archipelago of 64,000 people, Fiona should bring rain and raise water levels with “major destructive waves,” the NHC said.
Located thousands of kilometers from the United States and prone to hurricanes, the territory is one of the most isolated places in the world, making any evacuation in the event of an emergency almost impossible. “We have to live with it because we live here,” said JoAnn Scott, who works at a store in Hamilton. “Try to take it as it comes. And pray,” she added.
At the famous Horseshoe Bay beach, some watch the waves. Others take full advantage of the exceptional conditions to go kitesurfing. “They’re a little crazy,” notes Gina Maughan, who has come to stretch her legs one last time before a long night of waiting.
Because of its geographic location, the main island takes preparations seriously even when extensive damage is not expected.
Several boats parked at clubs were pulled from the water this week and outdoor furniture from homes and restaurants was brought inside. In addition to storing food and candles, Bermudians filled buckets with water from their reservoirs.
As there is no fresh water source on the island, all buildings have cisterns to store rainwater, which are connected to the houses through an electrical system. And because of power outages during storms, locals fill their bathtubs or buckets in anticipation.
Here, buildings and houses must comply with strict construction codes to withstand storms. Elaine Murray, Hartley’s wife, said, “The buildings are really built to last, and we’ve never seen the devastation that the Caribbean has experienced over the years.”
state of emergency
Fiona was responsible for the deaths of four people in the US territory of Puerto Rico, an official quoted by the media said. One death was reported in Guadeloupe and two in the Dominican Republic.
US President Joe Biden has declared a state of emergency in Puerto Rico, which is still recovering from Hurricane Maria five years ago.
FEMA, the federal agency responsible for dealing with natural disasters, said it was sending hundreds of workers to Puerto Rico, which has been hit by massive power outages, landslides and flooding.
“It breaks my heart,” US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi responded on Thursday.
In the Dominican Republic, President Luis Abinador has declared a state of natural disaster in three eastern provinces.