Failing Dam forces mass evacuation in Puerto Rico

About 70,000 people in northwestern Puerto Rico were ordered to evacuate on Friday, September 21, after Hurricane Maria caused damage to the Guajataca Dam, putting it in the imminent danger of collapse.

Following the storms of Hurricane Maria that swelled the reservoir of Guajataca Lake by nearly 40cm of rain, operators said that the dam started to show signs of failure at 14:10 local time (18:10 GMT) on Friday. Officials quickly realized the existence of a crack that could lead to the total failure of the 90-year-old dam, according to Anthony Reynes, a meteorologist with the US National Weather Service.

The National Weather Service (NWS) warned of flash flooding in the nearby municipalities of Quebradillas and Isabela and urged residents to move to higher ground. Many people living near the dam have been evacuated by buses. The video that follows shows the dam's spillway being overrun with rushing waters.

Abner Gomez, executive director of Puerto Rico's emergency management agency Gomez, said that under the current conditions, with water rising after the hurricane, "there is no way to fix it". Additional water flowing into the lake could create sudden dangers, so emergency evacuation was the only option, he said.

The dam was constructed by the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority to create the Guajataca Lake that provides water for drinking and irrigation to residents of the area, according to the US Geological Survey.

Check out the video here

Published 05/10/2017 19:10, updated: 05/10/2017 19:10