Mon | Sep 26, 2022

Biden vows US won’t walk away from storm-struck Puerto Rico

Published:Thursday | September 22, 2022 | 2:59 PM
President Joe Biden speaks about Hurricane Fiona during a visit to the Federal Emergency Management Agency Region 2 office in New York, Thursday, September 22, 2022. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

SAN SALVADOR, Puerto Rico (AP) — President Joe Biden said Thursday the full force of the federal government is ready to help Puerto Rico recover from the devastation of Hurricane Fiona even as Bermuda and Canada's Atlantic provinces were preparing for a major blast from the Category 4 storm.

Speaking at a briefing with Federal Emergency Management Agency officials in New York, Biden said, “We're all in this together.”

Biden noted that hundreds of FEMA and other federal officials are already on the ground in Puerto Rico, where Fiona caused an island-wide blackout.

More than 60% of power customers remained without energy on Thursday, and a third of customers were without water — and local officials admitted they could not say when service would be fully restored.

Biden said his message to the people of Puerto Rico who are still hurting from Hurricane Maria five years ago is, “We're with you. We're not going to walk away.”

That seemed to draw a contrast with former President Donald Trump, who was widely accused of an inadequate response to Maria, which left some Puerto Ricans without power for 11 months.

The hurricane was expected to still be at Category 4 force overnight when it passes close to Bermuda, where authorities there were opening shelters and announced schools and offices would be closed on Friday.

Hundreds of people in Puerto Rico remained cut off by road four days after the hurricane ripped into the US territory, and frustration was mounting for people like Nancy Galarza, who tried to signal for help from work crews she spotted in the distance.

At least five landslides cover the narrow road to her community in the steep mountains around the northern town of Caguas.

The only way to reach the settlement is to climb over thick hills of mud, rock and debris left by Fiona, whose floodwaters shook the foundations of nearby homes with earthquake-like force.

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