President Biden visits Puerto Rico to survey hurricane damage

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Monday, October 3, 2022
Biden visits Puerto Rico to survey hurricane damage
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President Biden and First lady Jill Biden traveled to Puerto Rico Monday to survey damage from Hurricane Fiona. Lauren Glassberg has the story.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WABC) -- President Biden and First lady Jill Biden traveled to Puerto Rico Monday to survey damage from Hurricane Fiona.

Hurricane Fiona slammed into Puerto Rico's southwest region as a Category 1 storm Sept. 18.

Power has been restored to about 90% of the island's 1.47 million customers, but more than 137,000 others, mostly in the hardest hit areas of Puerto Rico's southern and western regions, continue to struggle in the dark. Another 66,000 customers are without water.

Biden promised to "rebuild it all" after arriving in Puerto Rico to survey damage, as tens of thousands of people remain without power two weeks after the storm hit.

"I'm committed to this island," he said after receiving a briefing from local officials, acknowledging that Fiona was only the latest in a string of disasters that have battered the U.S. territory in recent years.

"Puerto Ricans are a strong people," Biden said. "But even so, you have had to bear so much, and more than need be, and you haven't gotten the help in a timely way."

Biden announced the administration will provide $60 million through last year's bipartisan infrastructure law to help Puerto Rico shore up levees, strengthen flood walls and create a new flood warning system so the island will be better prepared for future storms.

Gov. Pedro Pierluisi said crews were working swiftly to restore essential services but stressed that he was not satisfied that weeks later so many were without power and water.

The situation has angered and exasperated many who already were affected by power outages blamed on Hurricane Maria, a Category 4 storm that razed the island's power grid in September 2017.

Biden recently told Pierluisi that he authorized 100% federal funding for a month for debris removal, search and rescue efforts, power and water restoration, shelter and food.

The lack of electrical power on the island led to the temporary closure of businesses, including gas stations and grocery stores, as fuel supplies dwindled amid heavy generator use. As a result, many cheered the Biden administration's decision to temporarily waive a federal law so that a British Petroleum ship could deliver 300,000 barrels of diesel.

Biden also plans to visit Florida on Wednesday in the wake of Hurricane Ian.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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