Hurricane Fiona strengthened to a powerful Category 4 storm on Wednesday as it headed toward Bermuda after carving a destructive path through the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, where most were without power and up to eight people may have died.
After making landfall in Puerto Rico on Sunday, Fiona caused devastating flooding and landslides on the island and gathered steam as it barreled into the Dominican Republic and the Turks and Caicos Islands in the ensuing two days.
By Wednesday, Fiona was packing winds as high as 130 miles per hour (215 km per hour) and was expected to strengthen as it moved north toward Bermuda, though the current forecast does not see Bermuda taking a direct hit, the National Hurricane Center said.
"On the forecast track, the center of Fiona will continue to move away from the Turks and Caicos today, and approach Bermuda late on Thursday," the agency said in an early Wednesday report.
In Puerto Rico, where nearly half of the island's 3.3 million residents were still without water and 80 percent were lacking power, authorities were trying to get a handle on the scale of the destruction and start the recovery.
At least eight deaths are being investigated as potentially caused by Fiona, including a sick 4-month-old infant whose mother struggled to get to the hospital due to blocked roads, Dr. Maria Conte Miller, director of the Institute of Forensic Sciences, said in a roundtable on Tuesday.
The US Federal Emergency Management Agency has so far attributed four deaths to the storm in Puerto Rico. A fifth person was killed in Guadeloupe earlier in the week.
The Bermuda Weather Service has issued a tropical storm warning for the archipelago, which lies 600 miles (966 km) east of the US state of North Carolina, as Fiona tracks to the west of the British Overseas Territory. Hurricane-force winds are a possibility depending on the storm's path, it said.
"Outer rain bands will sweep into the region bringing bouts of showers, thunderstorms, and heavy rain," the weather service said in its forecast for Thursday and Friday.
An estimated 1.2 million homes and businesses remained without power in Puerto Rico on Wednesday morning, according to Poweroutages.com. LUMA Energy has said full restoration to all 1.5 million customers could take several days.
The pace of power restoration is faster than after Hurricane Maria in 2017 when the entire island was without power for a week.
In the neighboring Dominican Republic, Fiona triggered severe flooding that limited road access to villages, forced 12,500 people from their homes and knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of people.
Fiona was the first hurricane to score a direct hit on the Dominican Republic since Jeanne left severe damage in the east of the country in 2004.
US Health Secretary Xavier Becerra declared a public health emergency for Puerto Rico on Tuesday night, freeing up federal funds and equipment to assist the island.