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4 dead in Puerto Rico amid heavy rains

Image: Puerto Rico
Streets in San Juan, Puerto Rico, were flooded Monday by torrential rain.Tony Zayas / El Nuevo Dia
/ Source: news services

Heavy rains drenched Puerto Rico on Monday as a tropical disturbance lingered over the U.S. Caribbean territory, killing four people, flooding streets and forcing closure of public schools.

The tempest, which was in no immediate danger of turning into a tropical storm or hurricane, turned hillside streets into torrents and low-lying areas into ponds.

Rivers crested their banks near the southeast town of Yabucoa. Bulldozers on Monday were shoving aside mud that caked city streets. Mud also oozed into several houses.

More than 2 feet of water fell in 24 hours in Patillas county in southeastern Puerto Rico, said Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila. At a news conference, he warned that 12 more inches of rain could fall in the next 24 hours.

Police Superintendent Pedro Toledo said that among the dead was a 76-year-old man who suffered a heart attack as he swept water from his house. Two people drowned and the fourth victim also had a heart attack related to the storm.

The U.S. territory's southern coast was hardest hit by flooding. Several rivers, including the Rio Grande de Arecibo and Rio de La Plata, surged over their banks.

Scores of roadways were flooded and two major highways were partly closed because of mudslides.

The storm comes on the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Georges, which caused over $2 billion in damage in Puerto Rico.

Tropical storm by Wednesday?
The weather system has the potential to develop into a tropical storm by Wednesday as it moves northwest away from Puerto Rico, said National Weather Service meteorologist Sean Rossi.

If the scattered mass of thunderstorms becomes well organized with winds of 39 miles per hour , it would become Tropical Storm Kyle.

Computer forecast models took it north-northwest over the Dominican Republic and Haiti and then into the Atlantic. Haiti has already been hit hard by recent hurricanes and tropical storms. Several hundred people died when the impoverished nation was hammered by floods triggered by torrential rains from Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike.

Some models anticipated the latest tropical weather system would hit the Carolinas or the northeast U.S. coast, while other models kept it over the open seas. It was not expected to enter the Gulf of Mexico, where U.S. oil and gas facilities were still recovering from Hurricane Ike.