Biden pledges to help Puerto Rico prepare for future storms amid visit after Hurricane Fiona

President pledges funding to improve hurricane defences and to make power-generation network on the island more resilient

US president Joe Biden has promised that his administration is determined to help Puerto Rico, an American territory in the Caribbean, to build back faster and stronger after a series of natural disasters and to allow it prepare for future storms. Mr Biden pledged funding to improve hurricane defences and to make the power-generation network on the island more resilient in the knowledge that it was likely to face further storms in the years ahead.

The president on Monday visited Puerto Rico, a fortnight after the island was hit by hurricane Fiona.

Mr Biden said that after hurricane Maria devastated parts of Puerto Rico in 2017, the US Congress had pledged billions of dollars to help it recover. However, he said “much had not gotten to [the island]”. He promised that on this occasion in the aftermath of Hurricane Fiona his administration was determined “to make sure you get every single dollar promised”.

Mr Biden said he wanted to see facilities rebuilt on the island in a resilient way so that when it was hit by future storms it would not experience the same damage.

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The president said Puerto Rico had been through a lot in recent years. He had said it had experienced an earthquake, two significant hurricanes and the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mr Biden said the latest storm had dealt a serious blow to the hard work carried out by residents to reconstruct the island after hurricane Maria. “Roads and bridges that rebuilt after Maria have been washed away again, families who spent their savings to build new homes after losing their last ones have seen them flooded away, crops [have been] decimated and farms destroyed.”

He said people were without power and water for days. For people who had lived through hurricane Maria, this was a “familiar nightmare”.

He said after the most recent hurricane last month, power had been restored to 90 per cent of people and water to 95 per cent but he wanted to see this increase to 100 per cent. His administration would provide $60 million in federal support for the island’s storm defences.

The president also announced a new effort to make Puerto Rico’s electricity network more resilient. “We have to ensure when the next hurricane hits Puerto Rico, we are ready. We came here in person to show that we’re with you. All of the United States is with you. I’m committed to this island. We are not leaving here, as long as I am president, until everything – I mean this sincerely – until every single thing we can do is done.”

Speaking before he left Washington for Puerto Rico, Mr Biden said he was going to the island as people living there “haven’t been taken very good care of”.

“They’ve been trying like hell to catch up from the last hurricane. "

Mr Biden is scheduled to visit Florida on Wednesday to see the impact of hurricane Ian which devastated parts of the southwest coast last week.

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent