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Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic brace for heavy rains as Tropical Storm Bertha approaches

Dalia Ibrahim
Digital Reporter

Saturday, August 2, 2014, 5:16 PM -

Tropical Storm Bertha pushed just south of Puerto Rico on Saturday as it unleashed heavy rains and strong winds across the region, knocking out power on some islands in the eastern Caribbean. 

The storm's maximum sustained winds held at 85 km/h, and slow strengthening was expected by Sunday night. Bertha was centred about 175 km west-southwest of San Juan, Puerto Rico and was moving west-northwest at 35 km/h Saturday afternoon.


The storm was expected to pass near southwest Puerto Rico and possibly over the eastern Dominican Republic on Saturday night. As much as 75 to 130 mm of rain was forecast for Puerto Rico, with isolated amounts of up to 200 mm, with the heaviest rain likely in the island's eastern and southern regions. 

Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla warned of flooding, landslides and swollen rivers, which he urged people not to try and cross. 

"It's something that sounds obvious but it happens so often,'' he said in an Interview with The Associated Press. "It's not the time to take risks.'' 

Police said a man is recovering after lightning struck next to him as he emerged from a tent in the northeast coastal town of Luquillo. Garcia initially had said the man was a surfer.

SEE ALSO: NOAA predicts somewhat subdued Atlantic hurricane season for 2014; developing El Nino to blame

Authorities also reported several downed trees across the island's eastern region and two downed electrical posts. Some 9,000 people were without power and more than 1,300 without water. The lights also went out at the island's emergency management agency during a press conference Saturday morning. 

Authorities closed El Yunque rainforest, a popular tourist attraction in northeast Puerto Rico, and ferry rides to the neighbouring islands of Culebra and Vieques were cancelled.

Downed trees also were reported across St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where a coastal buoy south of St. Thomas recorded wind gusts of 115 km/h. 

Tropical storm warnings were in effect for Puerto Rico, the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, the eastern Dominican Republic, southeastern Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos islands. A tropical storm watch was in effect for central Bahamas.

Authorities in the Dominican Republic banned vessels from operating along the country's east coast, which is popular with tourists. The sun shone brightly there ahead of the storm, but those who ferry hundreds of tourists a day to the nearby island of Saona remained cautious. 

On Friday, Bertha passed just north of the French Caribbean island of Martinique, where it knocked out power in several areas. 

The storm may bring rain to a drought-hit area of southern Puerto Rico. 

It rained less than 25 mm in June in Puerto Rico, compared with the month's average of more than 100 mm. July saw more rain, but the 86 mm that fell was still down from the average of 120 mm.

With files from The Associated Press

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