Dam fails on Guajataca Lake in Puerto Rico, evacuations underway

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A dam on Guajataca Lake in northwest Puerto Rico is failing, causing flash flooding on the Rio Guajataca river and prompting an emergency evacuation for the communities of Isabela and Quebradillas, officials say.

Dam operators reported at 2:10 p.m. ET on Friday that the Guajataca Dam was failing, resulting in flash flooding which was moving downstream on the Rio Guajataca river, the National Weather Service said.

“This is a FLASH FLOOD EMERGENCY for ISABELLA and QUEBRADILLAS. 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 will be evacuating people from these areas.”

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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