CAGUAS, Puerto Rico (AP) – More than 1.5 million people in Puerto Rico are without water service, three days after Hurricane Fiona slammed into the U.S. territory, and many were using water trucks to fill jugs on Wednesday. spent hours in lines while others fetched water from water trucks. Mountain stream

People sweat on their faces in a long line of cars in the northern mountain town of Caguas, where the government has sent a water truck to one of at least 18 so-called “oases” set up on the island.

After the storm, the situation was once again frantic with many people on an island without basic services.

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“We thought we had a bad experience with Maria, but it was worse,” Gerardo Rodríguez said in the southern coastal town of Salinas, referring to the 2017 hurricane that killed nearly 3,000 and knocked out the island’s power grid. had done

Fiona dumped nearly two feet of rain on parts of Puerto Rico before making landfall in the eastern Dominican Republic and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

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Expanded to Category 4 strength, the storm was on track to pass near Bermuda early Friday and then hit eastern Canada early Saturday, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center.

The storm wreaked havoc with Puerto Rico’s electrical grid, which was patched but never fully rebuilt after Maria caused blackouts that lasted in some places for 11 months.

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A man points to a house that was destroyed by Hurricane Fiona in Villa Esperanza in Salinas, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2022.

Alejandro Granadillo via The Associated Press

As of Wednesday afternoon, about 70 percent of Puerto Rican customers were without power, according to government data.

In Caguas, the air conditioning in Emayra Veguilla’s car wasn’t working, so the bus driver put a small fan on the passenger seat. Earlier, he praised the bravery of Puerto Rico and its people on the song “Hujos del Canaveral” (“Sons of the Sugar Cane Field”), written by Puerto Rican hip-hop star Renee Perez.

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“I needed a shot of patriotism,” he said. “I needed the strength to do it again.”

Viguela waited in line Tuesday, only to be told the water had run out and another truck wouldn’t be available until Wednesday.

Beyond Viguela, some people gave up and left, tensions running high as people waited.

“Action!” A driver shouted, trying to get inside, scared of people.

Some people watching the line chose to go to the nearby highway where fresh water trickled down the hillside through a bamboo pipe that someone had installed.

Greg Reyes, an English teacher, stood in line in muddy flip-flops to collect water for himself, his girlfriend and their cat. He had brought a large bag with all the empty containers he could find in their house, including more than a dozen small water bottles.

Reyes said he and his partner had been buying water since Fiona was killed, but could no longer afford to do so.

Behind him stood retired William Rodriguez, surrounded by three large buckets and a four-gallon container. He was living in Massachusetts and decided to return to Puerto Rico about six months ago.

“But I think I’m going again,” he said, shaking his head.

People in the line grumbled about the slow pace of recovery, accused the government of not helping them as people on social media, and even one gym said its doors were open to everyone. There are openings that require water or a shower.

“It wasn’t easy,” said Juan Santos, a retiree who held the hand of his 5-year-old grandson. “We are suffering.”

None of the people in line had power, and many wondered if it would take as long to recover as it did with Hurricane Maria.

Power company officials initially said it would take a few days to restore power, but then backtracked Tuesday night, saying they were facing multiple roadblocks.

“Cyclone Fiona has severely affected power infrastructure and production facilities across the island. We want to make it very clear that recovery and reactivation efforts are ongoing and severe flooding, impassable roads, collapsed Affected by trees, damaged equipment and downed lines,” said Loma, the company that operates power transmission and distribution.

Crews found several substations underwater and inaccessible, officials said.

But Loma said he expected power to be restored Wednesday to much of Puerto Rico’s northern coast, which was largely spared by Fiona.

The sound of generators could be heard throughout the area as people became increasingly agitated.

“I hope that by the end of today, a large portion of the population will have access to these services,” said Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Pierlovisi.

The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency traveled to Puerto Rico on Tuesday and the agency announced it was sending hundreds of additional personnel to boost local response efforts. On Wednesday, US President Joe Biden approved a major disaster declaration, which would allow for more federal aid.

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

In the Turks and Caicos Islands, authorities reported relatively light damage and no d*aths, although the eye of the Category 4 storm passed close to the British territory’s tiny capital island of Grand Turk on Tuesday.

“Turks and Caicos has experienced an extraordinary past 24 hours,” said Deputy Gov. Anya Williams. “It has certainly come with its challenges.”

School on Grand Turk will reopen next week, officials said.

Fiona had sustained winds of 130 mph (215 km/h) late Wednesday, the hurricane center said. It was centered about 550 miles (885 km) southwest of Bermuda, moving north at 10 mph (17 km/h).

Fiona killed one person in the French overseas department of Guadeloupe and two others were swept away by rivers in Puerto Rico. Two dead in the Dominican Republic: one from a falling tree and the other from a downed power pole.

Two additional d*aths were reported in Puerto Rico as a result of the blackout: a 70-year-old man burned to d*ath while trying to fill his running generator with gasoline and a 78-year-old man, police say, Poisonous gases were inhaled. The generator

Associated Press reporters Maricarman Rivera Sanchez and Alejandro Granadillo contributed to this report.

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