HomePoliticsBiden says Hurricane Ian 'could be the deadliest hurricane in Florida history'

Biden says Hurricane Ian ‘could be the deadliest hurricane in Florida history’

President Biden addressed employees of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Florida and the nation after receiving a briefing from FEMA officials on Thursday, as Ian, which has been downgraded to a tropical storm but it is expected to become a hurricane again, it continues to hit Florida.

“This could be the deadliest hurricane in Florida history,” said a somber president at FEMA headquarters. “The numbers are not yet clear, but we are hearing the first reports of what could be a substantial loss of life.” Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno, who was hit hard by Ian, said Thursday that he believed the death toll would be “in the hundreds.” However, Governor Ron DeSantis later said that number had not been confirmed.

“My message to the people of Florida and to the country is that in times like this, America comes together,” the president added. “We’re going to come together as one team, as one United States.”

The president also told reporters that he plans to go to Florida and intends to visit Puerto Rico, which suffered an island-wide power outage after Hurricane Fiona hit earlier this month. He also said that he may have to request more funding from Congress to respond to Ian.

Hurricane Ian is sending catastrophic flooding over east-central areas of the state, the National Hurricane Center says, accompanied by storm surge and gusty winds that will spread across southern states. Ian hit the western coast of Florida as a Category 4 storm and weakened as it moved overland.

Earlier Thursday, the president approved a Florida Disaster Declaration, freeing up federal resources for the state. The major disaster declaration provides federal funds to Floridians in Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Hardee, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Pinellas and Sarasota counties, and can include assistance for temporary housing and home repairs, as well as things like loans of cost for loss of uninsured property. For the first 100 days, the federal government will cover all eligible assistance for debris removal and emergency protective measures.

On Thursday morning, Biden spoke with Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, who has been a harsh critic of Biden’s economic, immigration and COVID-19 policies, to discuss what the administration is doing to support Florida in the face of the storm. . . Biden said he spoke with DeSantis “four or five” times about Hurricane Ian and dismissed political differences when asked by a reporter to characterize their relationship.

“This is not about anything to do with our political disagreements,” the president said Thursday. “This is about saving people’s lives, homes and businesses.”

“First thing this morning, I spoke with Governor DeSantis and again offered him the fullest federal support,” Biden said. “Earlier this week, I approved your request for a prelandfall emergency declaration to provide direct federal assistance to the state for life-saving emergency protective measures, including search and rescue, shelter and food. This morning, I approved the governor’s majority recent major disaster expedited declaration request that means the federal government will cover 100% of the cost to clean up the debris and all the costs that the state has to do, that it has to participate in, to save lifes”.

“The federal government will also cover most of the cost of rebuilding public buildings like schools and fire stations,” the president continued. “And people in Florida who have destroyed or damaged homes are underinsured, which means the federal government will provide individual assistance of $37,900 for home repairs and another $37,900 for lost property, from cars to a lost wedding ring. .”

At FEMA headquarters, the president told employees that they were “doing a great job” and that they were “reinforcing people’s faith in institutions.”

Finally, the president urged Floridians to follow the instructions of local officials and stay inside until the water recedes.

The FEMA administrator is heading to Florida this week to check on response efforts and see where more help is needed.

Search and rescue missions are already being carried out by land, air and sea. The Pentagon has more than 1,200 vehicles and 25 vessels supporting search and rescue operations, in addition to US Coast Guard rescue efforts. Nearly 200 shelters are open in the Sunshine State.

Ian has disrupted regular time in Washington, where the House select panel investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on Capitol Hill has postponed its Wednesday hearing.

— Nicole Sganga contributed to this report.

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