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Oct. 3, 2022, 3:55 p.m. EDT

Biden en route to Puerto Rico to survey Hurricane Fiona damage

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Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden on Monday will survey damage from Hurricane Fiona in Puerto Rico, where tens of thousands of people are still without power two weeks after the storm hit.

Update: Biden tells hurricane-battered Puerto Rico that he’s ‘committed to standing with you’

The Category 1 hurricane knocked out electrical power to the U.S. territory of 3.2 million people, 44% of whom live below the poverty line.

Power has been restored to about 90% of the island’s 1.47 million customers, but more than 137,000 others, mostly in the hardest hit areas of Puerto Rico’s southern and western regions, continue to struggle in the dark. Another 66,000 customers are without water.

Biden has pledged that the U.S. government will not abandon Puerto Rico as it starts to rebuild again, five years after the more powerful Hurricane Maria devastated the island in 2017 .

From the archives (May 2018): Puerto Rico’s Hurricane Maria death toll was 70 times worse than the official count, says a new study

During his visit, Biden planned to announce the administration will provide $60 million through last year’s bipartisan infrastructure law to help Puerto Rico shore up levees, strengthen flood walls and create a new flood warning system so the island will be better prepared for future storms, the White House said.

“We see what you’re going through, and we’re with you,” Biden told Puerto Ricans and Floridians in a message Sunday on his official Twitter account.

Florida is cleaning up after Hurricane Ian, nearly reaching Category 5 status , churned across that state last week, killing more than 60 people , decimating some coastal communities and flooding others. Biden plans to visit Florida on Wednesday to survey damage.

See: Feds promise massive aid for Hurricane Ian victims, as rescues continue in Florida

The president, accompanied by first lady Jill Biden and Deanne Criswell, the Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator, was to touch down Monday in Ponce, Puerto Rico, a city on the southern coast. Most of the storm damage is in southern Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Pierluisi said he would update Biden on recovery efforts. “We will make sure to keep working together to ensure the continuity of a reconstruction already underway,” the governor tweeted on Sunday.

Fiona caused catastrophic flooding, tore apart roads and bridges, and unleashed more than 100 landslides when it hit Puerto Rico on Sept. 18. At least two people died after being swept away by floods, and several others were killed in accidents related to the use of candles or generator during the island-wide power outage.

Government officials have estimated some $3 billion in damages, but warn that costs could rise significantly as evaluations continue.

From the archives (September 2020): White House sends power-grid funds to Puerto Rico as Trump campaign targets Latin vote particularly in Florida

Also see (September 2019): Former FEMA officials, contractor arrested on Puerto Rico fraud charges

And (February 2022): Trump interior secretary Ryan Zinke misused his position, ethics investigation finds

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