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Biden vows to 'rebuild it all' in Puerto Rico after Fiona

October 4, 2022

US President Joe Biden has pledged $60 million to protect Puerto Rico against future storms. But two weeks on from Hurricane Fiona, tens of thousands remain without electricity and running water.

Joe Biden speaking in Ponce, Puerto Rico
Joe Biden has vowed to provide more support to Puerto Rico compared to the previous administrationImage: Evan Vucci/AP/picture alliance

US President Joe Biden promised to "rebuild it all'' on Monday while visiting Puerto Rico, where tens of thousands of people remain without power two weeks after Hurricane Fiona battered the Caribbean island.

"We came here in person to show we're with you — all of America's with you," the president said while standing beside First Lady Jill Biden. "I am committed to this island."

Fiona made landfall on September 18. More than 137,000 Puerto Ricans remain without power, and 66,000 are left without running water. The storm also killed at least 25 people on the island.

"What happened with this hurricane is that even though it was Category 1, in terms of water it was like Category 4,'' Puerto Rico's governor, Pedro Pierluisi, told Biden.

$60 million for future storm protection

During the visit, Biden announced $60 million (€61 million) in new funding through last year's Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

This money will go towards building levees, strengthening flood walls and establishing a new flood warning system so the island will be better prepared for future storms.

But the cleanup effort from September continues, and government officials estimate Fiona caused at least $3 billion in damage.

A man walking through mud outside his house
Government officials estimate Hurricane Fiona caused at least $3 billion worth of damageImage: Pedro Portal/Miami Herald/ZUMA Press/picture alliance

The visit was part of a message from the Biden administration that the government is committed to taking responsibility for the natural disaster, with the president admitting that Puerto Rico had not "been taken very good care of" in the past.

Amid growing discontent at the pace of reconstruction, some residents recalled when former US President Donald Trump visited the island after Hurricane Maria in 2017 and tossed rolls of paper towels into a crowd — a display that riled many.

"We know that there may have been some issues in the previous administration," said Deanne Criswell, a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) administrator who joined Biden on his trip. "We are laser-focused on giving them the support they need."

zc/wd (AP, AFP)