'I'm committed to this island,' Biden says in hurricane-stricken Puerto Rico

US president announces $60m in aid to the American territory

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US President Joe Biden underscored his commitment to Puerto Rico on Monday, saying during a visit to the territory that he would “rebuild it all” after Hurricane Fiona wiped out the island's power and destroyed its infrastructure.

The president's remarks came shortly after he touched down in Puerto Rico with first lady Jill Biden to survey the damage caused by the catastrophic storm last month.

“We came here in person to show that we're with you. All of America is with you as you receive and recover and rebuild,” Mr Biden said in Ponce, a city on Puerto Rico's southern coast.

At least 25 deaths in the US territory could be linked to the Category 1 hurricane, CNN reported.

Mr Biden announced the government would provide $60 million in funding as part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to to buttress Puerto Rico's infrastructure and shore up levees so the territory is better-equipped for future storms.

Fiona was the first hurricane to strike the island since Hurricane Maria in 2017. The authorities in Puerto Rico initially underestimated the death toll at 64, only to later revise that figure to more than 3,000, making it one of the deadliest storms in US history.

“For everyone who survived Maria, Fiona must have been an all too familiar nightmare,” Mr Biden said.

“Puerto Rico is a strong place and Puerto Ricans are strong people. But even so, you have had to bear so much more than need be and you haven't got the help in a timely way.”

Donald Trump, the US president at the time, was criticised for his slow response to send aid to the island after Maria hit.

Hurricane Fiona wiped out the island's power supply after it made landfall on September 18, causing catastrophic landslides and flooding.

US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said on Monday that power had been restored to 90 per cent of the territory's customers.

“This is an important milestone, coming just 13 days after Fiona made landfall,” she tweeted.

The White House last week approved waiving US shipping rules to assist Puerto Rico's immediate energy needs.

Mr Biden this week will also travel to Florida to inspect the damage after Hurricane Ian made landfall last week as a Category 4 hurricane.

“As I've made clear: times like these, our nation comes together. Put aside our differences, our political differences and get to work,” he said.

Updated: October 03, 2022, 10:47 PM
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