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Hurricane Fiona Strikes Several Caribbean Islands and Super Typhoon Nanmadol Batters Japan

 

The Caribbean: Hurricane Fiona Exposes Infrastructure Vulnerabilities 

Hurricane Fiona has strengthened into a Category 4 storm on Sept. 21 and continues its path northward through the Atlantic after causing extensive property and infrastructure damage in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and the Turks and Caicos Islands in recent days. The storm initially made landfall in Puerto Rico on Sept. 18, bringing torrential downpours and winds reaching 90 mph (144 kph) that triggered widespread flooding and landslides. The hurricane decimated the country’s power grid – which was already in a vulnerable state due to damage caused by Hurricane Maria in 2017 – leaving nearly 1.2 million users without electricity and hundreds of thousands without safe drinking water; approximately 80% of the island remained without power as of Sept. 20. According to the Puerto Rican government, more than 750,000 people are without drinking water, and at least 1,200 residents are displaced in 70 shelters across the island. Seaports suspended operations due to flooding and mudslides, and two international airports in San Juan and Ponce canceled numerous flights, although airport operations have been gradually resuming since Sept. 19. In the Dominican Republic, the storm displaced more than 13,000 people; 1.1 million others lack access to drinking water, and 700,000 homes and businesses remain without power. The National Emergency Operation Center said that Fiona damaged or destroyed 3,000 homes and at least four bridges. The storm also significantly impacted travel, prompting the closure of four international airports and blocking traffic on several major highways. As Fiona reached Turks and Caicos on Sept. 20 with sustained winds of almost 125 mph (201 kph), the government imposed a curfew and urged residents to relocate from flood-prone areas. Several parts of Turks and Caicos – including Grand Turk, South Caicos, and Salt Cay – experienced island-wide power outages. While no casualties have been reported on the islands as of Sept. 20, five deaths have been recorded across Puerto Rico (2), the Dominican Republic (2), and the French territory of Guadeloupe (1). As of Sept. 21, the storm continues to move north and is forecast to approach Bermuda on Sept. 22, where it will likely cause substantial infrastructure damage and significantly disrupt travel and business operations.

 


 

Japan: Typhoon Causes Disruption Despite Robust Disaster Preparedness 

Super typhoon Nanmadol made landfall on Japan’s southern island of Kyushu on the evening of Sept. 17, prompting evacuation orders for nearly nine million people and severely disrupting travel, business operations, and power supplies. Due to the severity of the storm, the Japanese Meteorological Agency issued a level-five alert – the highest on Japan’s five-tier warning system – for more than 500,000 people in parts of Kyushu and Honshu Islands. The storm brought damaging winds reaching 145mph (234kph) and heavy rainfall, triggering widespread flooding and mudslides that damaged or destroyed private residences, inundated roadways, and impacted power infrastructure throughout the country. Power outages were reported in at least 350,000 households in Kyushu and Chugoku regions; however, electricity has been restored in 71% of the affected areas following the storm’s passage. As of Sept. 20, 1,920 households remain without power on Honshu Island, with the areas of Yokosuka and Hokuto experiencing the most disruption. While the full extent of the storm’s economic impact remains unclear, it flooded agricultural areas and forced numerous businesses and manufacturers to suspend their operations. International airports in Tokyo, Osaka, and Fukuoka resumed operations on Sept. 20 after canceling more than 400 flights. High-speed rail services were also interrupted on Sept. 19 but partially resumed the following day. The storm has killed at least three people and injured 142 others nationwide since making landfall. However, Japan’s robust disaster education and its comprehensive emergency preparation and disaster relief systems likely contributed to reducing the typhoon’s overall impact, despite it being one of the strongest storms to hit the country in decades. According to the local authorities, Nanmadol has weakened off the coast of Sanriku, though additional flooding and landslides remain likely in the northeast, while swells and hazardous waves are forecast for northwestern regions in the coming days.

 

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