Biden to visit Florida and Puerto Rico to view hurricane devastation

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has prepared its largest ever search-and-rescue operation in the wake of Hurricane Ian’s destruction in Florida, administrator Deanne Criswell said on “Fox News Sunday.”

“We pre-positioned the largest amount of search-and-rescue assets that I think we’ve ever put in place before,” Criswell said.

FEMA’s Urban Search and Rescue teams, the Coast Guard, the Interior Department and Defense Department will work with Florida officials to search for people who remain unaccounted for after Hurricane Ian, which brought catastrophic floods, according to Criswell.

At least 1,100 rescues had been made in Florida since the storm struck, Gov. Ron DeSantis told a news conference Saturday.

“There’s been a great outpouring of support and I’ve seen a lot of resilience in this community of people that want to pick themselves up and they want to get their communities back on their feet,” DeSantis told reporters. “We’ll be here and we’ll be helping every step of the way.”

The news comes as President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden announced they will travel to devastated areas this week as the United States reels from the death, dangerous floods and destruction left in Hurricane Ian’s wake.

The White House announced late Saturday that the Bidens will visit Puerto Rico on Monday and Florida on Wednesday.

Hurricane Ian latest

  • Search crews are racing to rescue stranded survivors.
  • 864,000 customers are still without power in Florida.
  • At least 85 confirmed storm-related deaths are recorded in Florida and North Carolina, according to a tally by state officials and an NBC News count.
  • The president and first lady will visit Florida and Puerto Rico this week.

At least 81 storm-related deaths have been confirmed in Florida since Hurricane Ian slammed into the state last week with 150 mph winds, according to a tally by state officials and an NBC News count.

After Ian was downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone, the National Hurricane Center said in an advisory late Saturday that the storm was dissipating across southern Virginia. Still, it left flooding and power outages across the Carolinas as the extent of the damage came into view. At least four people died in North Carolina, Gov. Roy Cooper announced Saturday.

With rescue efforts ongoing and the floodwaters receding in places littered with wrecked homes, local officials warned that the extent of the death and destruction left by Ian may only just be coming into view.

Puerto Rico is still grappling with the fallout from Hurricane Fiona, which has resulted in 25 fatalities since it hit the US territory last month, according to the island’s health department.

No further details of the Bidens’ trip were announced, but the president mentioned his concern for the areas pummeled by the storms at a Congressional Black Caucus awards dinner on Saturday night.

“Our hearts … are heavy, the devastating hurricanes, storms in Puerto Rico, Florida and South Carolina. And we owe Puerto Rico a hell of a lot more than they’ve already gotten,” Biden said.

Almost a million customers were still deprived of electricity, data from PowerOutage.us showed Sunday morning, with the Federal Emergency Management Agency announcing some generators purchased for medical needs by residents will be covered by tax dollars.

Residents who lost power after the storm struck in areas covered by Biden’s major disaster declaration will be eligible for reimbursement, which for now include only the Florida counties of Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Hardee, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Pinellas and Sarasota. Additional areas could be designated after damage assessment, said the White House.

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