Bidens head to Puerto Rico to show support after hurricane


FILE PHOTO: Cars drive under a downed power pole in the aftermath of Hurricane Fiona in Santa Isabel, Puerto Rico September 21, 2022. REUTERS/Ricardo Arduengo/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, travel to Puerto Rico on Monday to survey damage from Hurricane Fiona and show support to the island's population as it grapples with the aftermath of its latest punishing storm.

The president has pledged the U.S. government's firm support for Puerto Rico as well as the states of Florida and South Carolina, which have also been hit hard in recent days by Hurricane Ian. Biden will travel to Florida on Wednesday.

"Our hearts, to state the obvious -- it can’t go without saying -- are heavy from the devastating hurricane and storms in Puerto Rico, Florida, and South Carolina," Biden said on Saturday night at an event in Washington.

"We owe Puerto Rico a hell of a lot more than they've already gotten," he said.

Storm-ravaged residents in Florida and the Carolinas alone face a disaster recovery expected to cost tens of billions of dollars.

Hundreds of thousands of people have struggled without power since Fiona hit Puerto Rico some two weeks ago.

U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said via Twitter on Sunday that power had been restored to 90% of customers on the island.

"This is an important milestone, coming just 13 days after Fiona made landfall," she said. "While we're grateful for this progress, we realize the work is not over. Efforts to rebuild and help those impacted will continue."

Last week the Biden administration approved a waiver of U.S. shipping rules to address Puerto Rico's immediate energy needs.

Residents of the island in 2017 accused then President Donald Trump of being slow to dispatch aid to the U.S. territory in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

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