Sun loungers and umbrellas are lined up, storefronts caulked, and the beam from the lighthouse shows fast-moving clouds as Bermuda braced Thursday for the mighty Category 4 Hurricane Fiona that wreaked havoc on the Caribbean.
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Faced with increasingly powerful gusts and waves, the inhabitants of this British territory took refuge in their homes at nightfall.
Fiona’s eye is expected to pass 180km west of the archipelago around 4 a.m. (7 a.m. GMT) on Friday, according to the Bermuda Weather Services, and may have been downgraded to Category 3 by then.
But due to the size and strength of the hurricane, it was time for caution nonetheless. “I encourage everyone to prepare adequately for this storm,” Premier David Burt tweeted. “Take care of yourself and your family. »
In Hamilton, the capital, Richard Hartley affixed metal plates to the windows of his shop in the afternoon with the help of his wife. “The wind will come directly from the south. This corner is very exposed to the winds,” he told AFP.
According to the National Hurricane Center (NHC), based in Miami, the storm is accompanied by winds blowing up to 215 km / h. It is heading north and must also affect the coast of Canada.
In Bermuda, a very small archipelago of 64,000 inhabitants, Fiona must bring rain and cause a rise in water levels, with “large destructive waves”, indicated the NHC.
The territory, located a thousand kilometers from the United States and accustomed to hurricanes, is one of the most isolated places in the world, which makes any evacuation almost impossible in the event of an emergency.
“We have to live with it because we live here,” said JoeAnn Scott, who works in a store in Hamilton. The inhabitants “try to take it as it comes. And pray,” she added.
Along famous Horseshoe Bay Beach, some watch the choppy waves. Others take full advantage of the exceptional conditions to go kitesurfing. “They are a bit crazy,” notes Gina Maughan, who came to stretch her legs one last time before a long night of waiting.
Due to its geographical location, the main island therefore takes preparations seriously even when it does not expect extensive damage.
Many of the boats moored at clubs were pulled from the water this week and outdoor furniture, both in homes and restaurants, was brought inside.
In addition to storing food and candles, Bermudians filled buckets with water from their reservoirs.
As the island does not have a source of fresh water, all the buildings have reservoirs to store rainwater, connected to the houses by an electrical system.
And since power outages can occur during storms, locals often fill their bathtubs or buckets in anticipation.
Here, buildings and houses must also comply with strict construction rules to withstand storms.
“The buildings are really made to last, and we never see the devastation that the Caribbean has experienced over the years,” said Hartley’s wife, Elaine Murray.
Fiona caused the deaths of four people in Puerto Rico, a US territory, according to an official quoted by the media. 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 would send hundreds more of its personnel to Puerto Rico, which suffered massive power cuts, landslides and floods.
“It breaks my heart,” the leader of the American House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, reacted Thursday.
In the Dominican Republic, President Luis Abinader has declared a state of natural disaster in three eastern provinces.