Biden: ‘Our country hurts’ after Hurricane Ian slams Florida
President Joe Biden on Thursday said “our entire country hurts” along with the people of Florida after Hurricane Ian flooded communities across the state, knocked out power, forced people into shelters, and raised fears of a “substantial loss of life”.
Biden said the storm could end up as the “deadliest hurricane in Florida’s history”.
During a visit to the headquarters of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), where he was briefed on federal response efforts, the president said: “The numbers are still unclear, but we’re hearing early reports of what may be substantial loss of life.”
Biden said he would visit Florida and meet with Republican Governor Ron DeSantis when “conditions allow”. The president said he would also visit Puerto Rico, a US territory, that was slammed earlier this month by Hurricane Fiona.
“We know many families are hurting,” Biden said at FEMA’s National Response Coordination Center, where teams of specialists from across the federal government and partner organisations were monitoring the storm and assisting in recovery efforts. “Our entire country hurts with them.”
He urged those affected by Ian to take seriously the warnings from local officials to stay safe and remain indoors.
“Don’t go outside unless you have to,” Biden said. “The danger is real, to state the obvious. Please obey all warnings and direction from emergency officials.”
Biden and DeSantis spoke before the hurricane hit, and again on Thursday morning as the destruction began to come into focus. Ian made landfall as one of the strongest hurricanes ever in the United States. The storm flooded homes on Florida’s coasts, cut off the only bridge to a barrier island, destroyed a historic waterfront pier, and knocked out electricity to 2.67 million homes and businesses. At least one man was confirmed dead.
Biden declared a major disaster in parts of Florida early on Thursday at DeSantis’ request, freeing up additional federal assistance to state and local governments and individuals. FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell said more counties would likely be added to the disaster declaration as assessments were carried out.
Asked if his administration would need additional money from Congress to respond to the storm, Biden said: “We may.”