Biden heads to storm-hit Puerto Rico

2. Biden
US President Joe Biden and US First Lady Jill Biden walk to board Marine One at the White House in Washington, DC, on October 3, 2022. (Photo: AFP)

WASHINGTON, DC — President Joe Biden headed to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico on Monday, where he will announce $60 million in funding to strengthen storm defenses in a US territory whose people have complained of neglect after past natural disasters.اضافة اعلان

First Lady Jill Biden accompanied the president on the trip, with the couple also visiting Florida on Wednesday to see the devastating damage caused by Hurricane Ian.

Both Puerto Rico and Florida have suffered fatalities, widespread power outages, dangerous flooding and grievous property damage from the recent hurricanes — first Fiona, then Ian.

The Bidens will visit the city of Ponce on Puerto Rico’s southern coast, where they will meet with families and community leaders impacted by the storm and help pack food and other supplies for those in need.

“I’m heading to Puerto Rico because they haven’t been taken very good care of,” the president said as he departed.

“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.”

During the visit, Biden is to announce the new funding “to shore up levees, strengthen flood walls, and create a new flood warning system to help Puerto Rico become better prepared for future storms,” a White House official said.

Twenty-five deaths in Puerto Rico have been linked to Hurricane Fiona, according to the island’s public health department, which is still investigating how 12 of the fatalities occurred.

The entire US territory lost power and about 1 million people were left temporarily without drinking water, when Fiona — then a Category 1 storm — hammered the island in mid-September.

Biden declared a state of emergency for Puerto Rico on September 18.

Island residents, all US citizens, have complained of being overlooked by Washington after previous disasters, including the hit from twin hurricanes, Irma and Maria, in 2017.

Florida, where Hurricane Ian roared on land Wednesday as a Category 4 storm, is still struggling to assess the extensive damage, particularly on its southwest coast.

The confirmed death toll from Ian, one of the most powerful storms ever to hit the US mainland, has soared to at least 58 in Florida and four in North Carolina with rescuers still searching for survivors in submerged neighborhoods.

US authorities — federal, state, and local — are often judged by the effectiveness of their response to such disasters.

After Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and the Gulf coast, critics castigated then-president George W. Bush after photos showed him surveying damage while flying high overhead.

And after then-president Donald Trump, on a visit to Puerto Rico following storms there, took a basketball-style shot to distribute rolls of paper towels, the mayor of capital city San Juan called it “insulting” and “abominable”.

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