By Danica Coto
Tropical Storm Otto has unleashed floods that overturned cars, toppled power lines and washed out roads in the northeastern Caribbean, according to officials.
The British Virgin Islands has been hit with the worst flooding in its history, prompting the government to declare a state of emergency, according to Sharleen Dabreo, director of Department of Disaster Management.
The rush of water downed power lines, broke underground drainage pipes and flipped cars that remain mired in mud. Nearly 51cm of rain have fallen since Tuesday, Gov. William Boyd McCleary told The Associated Press.
"We've got a pretty serious situation here," he said. "We're not out of the woods yet."
Schools will remain closed until Monday, but government offices will reopen on Friday, he said.
Dozens of people were still without power and water on Thursday afternoon, with most of the damage reported in Tortola and its capital, Road Town.
"It's almost like a river stripped through the centre of Road Town," McCleary said, adding that a 100-year-old house on Main Street flooded for the first time.
Officials also closed public schools in the US Virgin Islands and St. Kitts and Nevis, where government spokesman Erasmus Williams said rough waters were frustrating efforts to free an oil tanker that broke free of its moorings and grounded in the capital's harbor.
None of the roughly 18,000 barrels of diesel fuel inside the Turkish-flagged Azra-S have spilled.
In Puerto Rico, floods, landslides and uprooted trees forced the closure of 40 roads and the partial closure of another 19 roads, said Doris Torres, Department of Transportation spokeswoman.
Dozens of families across the US Caribbean territory are isolated, she said.
In St. Lucia, an estimated 100 homes are flooded and a fishing village on the island's east coast was declared a disaster zone.
The US National Hurricane Centre in Miami said Otto became a tropical storm early Thursday and it was expected to grow into at least a minimum-force hurricane with winds of 120 kph by Friday night or Saturday.
Its maximum sustained winds were near 95 kph Thursday afternoon - with tropical-storm-force winds extending as far as 150km from the centre.
Otto was centred about 455km northeast of Grand Turk Island and was moving about 9 kph. The Hurricane Centre said it was likely to start advancing northeast across the open Atlantic toward the Azores islands.
source: newshub archive