Dam failure ‘imminent’ in northwest Puerto Rico, evacuations underway


PUBLISHED Fri, September 22, 2017 - 2:42pm EDT


A dam on Guajataca Lake in northwest Puerto Rico is at risk of imminent failure, which could result in life-threatening flash flooding on the Rio Guajataca river, officials say. An evacuation has been ordered for the communities of Isabela and Quebradillas.





Dam operators reported at 4:10 p.m. ET on Friday that a failure of the Guajataca Dam was "imminent," according to the National Weather Service. A failure would result in flash flooding that would move downstream on the Rio Guajataca river.

"This is a FLASH FLOOD EMERGENCY for ISABELLA, QUEBRADILLAS and SURROUNDING AREAS. SEEK HIGHER GROUND NOW!", the agency said in a warning. "This is an extremely dangerous and life-threatening situation."

The agency added: "Move to higher ground now. Act quickly to protect your life. Authorities have ordered an evacuation of Isabella and Quebradillas. Buses are evacuating people from these areas. Please heed instructions from authorities."

Earlier in the afternoon, the National Weather Service had issued a warning which said the dam was "failing" and suggested that flash flooding was already occurring. The agency issued an update at 4:21 p.m. which said the dam had not yet failed, but continued to urge residents to evacuate immediately.

There was no immediate word from the ground to confirm the severity of the situation, but Puerto Rico has been hit hard by Hurricane Maria, which made landfall on Wednesday afternoon. The storm caused major damage, an island-wide power failure, and killed at least 13 people.

Guajataca Lake was constructed in 1929 to provide a public water and irrigation water supply. Quebradillas, which is home to about 26,000 people, is located roughly 5 miles (8 kilometers) north of the lake, while Isabela - which is home to 45,000 people - is located 9.5 miles (15 kilometers) to the northwest.





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