SAN JUAN – The force of Category 5 Hurricane Irma made itself felt late Wednesday in Puerto Rico, where authorities reported one storm-related death.
Irma, which has maximum sustained winds of 298 km/h (185 mph), brought winds of roughly 170 km/h (106 mph) to the northeastern part of the US commonwealth.
The mayor of the northern town of Manati, Jose Sanchez, said that a 76-year-old woman in a wheelchair suffered a fall when people came to evacuate her from her home and later died at the hospital of a heart attack.
Abner Gomez, head of Puerto Rico’s Aemead emergency management agency, urged people to remain in their homes until the storm passed, pointing out that the forecast called for Irma to bring 35 centimeters (14 inches) of rain to the Caribbean island.
Nearly half of the island’s households have lost power, Gomez told a press conference.
Earlier Wednesday, Puerto Rico Gov. Ricky Rossello visited a storm shelter at Bolivar Pagan School in San Juan to inspect the facilities there.
In addition, the governor went to the central offices of state-owned utility AEE in Santurce to thank the employees for their work during emergencies.
Rossello emphasized that people who could find themselves in a vulnerable situation or in flood zones should seek shelter in a secure location.
He said that 406 shelters are available around Puerto Rico, of which at least 122 are currently operating.