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'Major' Hurricane Fiona becomes killer storm as it heads towards Caribbean

The first "major hurricane" of the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season heads towards the British territory, leaving death and destruction in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

Image:Pic: National Hurricane Center
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An intensifying Hurricane Fiona is churning towards the Turks and Caicos Islands and has strengthened into a category three storm, prompting the government to impose a curfew.

Fiona had maximum sustained winds of 110mph on Monday night, making it a category two storm.

Forecasters said on Tuesday it had become the first "major hurricane" of the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season, a category three storm, which has sustained winds of 111-129mph and can cause devastating damage.

"Maximum sustained winds are up to 115mph," tweeted the National Hurricane Center, with the British territory braced for Fiona.

"Heavy rainfall and life-threatening flash flooding still occurring in eastern portions of the Dominican Republic," it added.

The five categories of storm

  • Category One - 74 to 95mph winds, which can cause some damage to houses and tree branches and may also disrupt some power lines
  • Category Two - 96 to 110mph winds, which can cause major damage to homes, uproot trees, and damage power lines enough to cause cuts to electricity
  • Category Three - 111 to 129mph winds, even more major damage to homes and trees, with heightened risks of disruption to power and water supplies
  • Category Four - 130 to 156mph winds, causing even more damage to homes, trees and supplies, potentially making communities unliveable for weeks
  • Category Five - 157mph winds and above, causing catastrophic damage, robbing communities of power for weeks or even months, and making places unliveable

Fiona left three people dead in its wake after hitting Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic earlier this week.

The storm was on track to pass close to the eastern end of the Turks and Caicos Islands on Tuesday evening, before heading for the southern Bahamas.

More on Hurricane

People urged to seek shelter

The government's National Emergency Operations Center (NEOC) told residents of three eastern islands to stay indoors, and ordered businesses to close.

"All persons are to remain indoors at their residence, place of safety or where they seek shelter" until the NEOC issues a "national all-clear", it told residents of Grand Turk, South Caicos and Salt Cay.

Residents were stocking up on food and water while shelters were being prepared, with similar action taken in the eastern Bahamas.

Fiona churned towards the Caribbean archipelago, leaving death and destruction in Puerto Rico.

Fiona was made all the more devastating because Puerto Rico has yet to recover from Hurricane Maria, which killed nearly 3,000 people and destroyed the power grid in 2017.

Image:Homes flooded on Salinas Beach, Puerto Rico. Pic: AP
Image:A man begins the clean-up at a restaurant in Penuelas, Puerto Rico
Image:The aftermath of Hurricane Fiona in Guayanilla, Puerto Rico

Deaths linked to flooding and power cuts

There was total blackout when it hit the island's south-west corner on Sunday, impacting water supplies.

A 58-year-old man died after police said he was swept away by a river in the central mountain town of Comerio.

Another death was linked to the power cut. A 70-year-old man was burned to death after he tried to fill his generator with petrol while it was running, officials said.

By Monday night, authorities said they had restored power to more than 114,000 customers on the island of 3.2 million people.

More than 900 people have been rescued from floodwaters and landslides by the National Guard, with up to 30 inches of rain forecast for some areas.

Image:Fiona makes landfall in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. Pic: Dan Morris via Reuters

In the Dominican Republic, authorities reported one death - a man hit by a falling tree.

The storm displaced more than 12,400 people, cut off at least two communities, leaving motorways blocked and also shut down at least four international airports.