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

  • A National Guardsman delivers water to the residents of Punta Diamante in Ponce, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, September 21, 2022, after the area was hit by Hurricane Fiona. (AP Photo/Alejandro Granadillo)

SAN SALVADOR, Puerto Rico — 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.”

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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.

Fiona’s outer bands were already reaching the British territory in early afternoon.It’s expected to still be a large and dangerously potent when it reaches Canada’s Atlantic provinces, likely late Friday, as a post-tropical cyclone.

“It’s going to be a storm that everyone remembers when it is all said and done,” said Bob Robichaud, warning preparedness meteorologist for the Canadian Hurricane Centre.

Hundreds of people in Puerto Rico remained cut off by road four days after the hurricane ripped into the U.S. territory. At least eight of 11 communities in Caguas are completely isolated, said Luis González, municipal inspector of recovery and reconstruction. It’s one of at least six municipalities where crews have yet to reach some areas. People there often depend on help from neighbors, as they did following Hurricane Maria, a Category 4 storm in 2017 that killed nearly 3,000 people.

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