Biden visits Puerto Rico after Hurricane Fiona: ‘I’m committed to this island’

By Dylan Stableford

President Biden on Monday flew to Puerto Rico to survey the federal response to last month’s Hurricane Fiona and announced $60 million in additional funding through the newly enacted infrastructure law to help repair levees, fortify the island’s floodwalls and create a new flood warning system for the U.S. territory’s 2.6 million residents.

“I’m committed to this island,” Biden said in Puerto Rico during remarks on a sweltering hot day. “You deserve every bit of help this country can give you” (Yahoo News).

Before leaving Washington, the president told reporters, “They haven’t been taken very good care of. They’ve been trying like hell to catch up from the last hurricane. I want to see the state of affairs today and make sure we push everything we can.

The Hill: In Puerto Rico, Biden drew a contrast with the Trump administration.

Fiona struck the island as a Category 1 storm on Sept. 18, dumping nearly 30 inches of rain, triggering floods and mudslides, washing away bridges and causing widespread and lingering power outages. More than 120,000 homes and businesses are still without power. At least 16 deaths have been connected to the storm as parts of the island are still recovering from the damage caused by Hurricane Maria, which hit Puerto Rico as a Category 4 hurricane in 2017, killing nearly 3,000 people.

Biden will arrive in Florida on Wednesday to lend the same attentive empathy following the wrath of Hurricane Ian, vowing that the federal government will help the Sunshine State rebuild after a Category 4 storm last week led to the deaths of at least 101 people in the United States (CNN).

Most of the fatalities reported in Florida and North Carolina resulted from drowning but some were blamed on harsh consequences in the aftermath of the storm, such as an elderly couple who died after power to their oxygen machines shut off (AccuWeather).

Flooding continues in multiple counties and some residents and businesses in storm-damaged areas may not have power for “weeks or months” because of structural damage caused by the hurricane, Eric Silagy, president and CEO of Florida Power and Light Company, told CNN. Electricity may not be restored on Fort Myers Beach, Fla., for 30 days because of the destruction, Lee County Manager Roger Desjarlais added.

More than 440,500 Florida homes, businesses and other customers were without power as of this morning, according to PowerOutage.us. The National Guard will transport power crews by air to Sanibel and Pine islands to assess damage and start working on restoring power, Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis told reporters.

Many residents remain without potable tap water, according to the Florida Health Department, which issued advisories to boil water for drinking.

More state headlines:

  • WMUR: New Hampshire Republican Gov. Chris Sununu announced Monday he deployed National Guard units to the U.S. southern border with Mexico.
  • The Hill: What happens if Lake Powell, a reservoir on the Colorado River in Utah and Arizona, runs out of water?
  • The Hill: Tennessee Republican state lawmakers wrote to Vanderbilt University Medical Center last week seeking to halt gender-affirming surgeries performed on patients younger than 18.
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