The Guajataca Dam in the northwestern Puerto Rico failed at 2:10 p.m. local time, spurring the National Weather Service to announce a flash flood emergency. The dam failure comes in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, which has caused flooding and devastation across the island.
The nearby cities of Isabela and Quebradillas, with a combined population of more than 70,000 people, received evacuation orders as the dam began to fail. "This is an EXTREMELY DANGEROUS SITUATION," NWS San Juan said in a statement Friday afternoon.
— WeatherNation (@WeatherNation) September 22, 2017
"Buses are currently evacuating people from the area as quickly as they can," the statement continued.
Local residents have been warned to find "higher ground now," the weather service said on its website. Between Tuesday and Wednesday alone, water levels in Lago de Guajataca (Guajataca Lake) rose three feet, federal data show. The dam, constructed in the 1920s, had a capacity of about 11 billion gallons of water and was used primarily for irrigation and consumption.
"Do not attempt travel unless you are fleeing an area subject to flooding or under an evacuation order," the alert states.
— Marc Weinberg (@MarcWeinbergWX) September 22, 2017
As of Thursday the entire island has been without electric power. At least 13 have died on the island as a result of the storm, and the death toll is expected to rise. Maria has claimed 30 lives as it cut through the Caribbean, and the Category 3 storm remains very dangerous.
— Brad Nitz (@BradNitzWSB) September 22, 2017