’Move to higher ground now’: Puerto Rico dam failing after Hurricane Maria

A flooded street is seen in the Juana Matos neighbourhood in Catano municipality after Hurricane Maria, southwest of San Juan, Puerto Rico September 21, 2017. © Dave Graham / Reuters

Evacuation orders have been issued for an area in northwestern Puerto Rico, after authorities said the Guajataca Dam was failing under the pressure of water accumulated from Hurricane Maria.

Operators reported that the structure was failing around 2:10 pm local time on Friday, causing flash flooding downstream on the Rio Guajataca, according to the National Weather Service in San Juan.

The reservoir, created in 1929 by the US Army Corps of Engineers, is located between the municipalities of Quebradillas, San Sebastián and Isabella.

Residents of Isabella and Quebradillas were told that the flash floods are an “extremely dangerous and life-threatening situation” and instructed to “seek higher ground now.”

Buses are evacuating the residents from the two coastal towns, AP reported. According to recent estimates, Isabela has 45,000 residents while another 25,000 live in Quebradillas.

Hurricane Maria was at Category 4 strength when it made landfall in eastern Puerto Rico on Wednesday. Authorities on the island said it caused “total devastation” to the island’s infrastructure. Catastrophic flash floods were reported around the island, accompanied by widespread power outages.