Posted by: Justo Hernandez, Federal Coordinating Officer
San Juan, PR, August 24, 2011 -- Justo Hernandez, federal coordinating officer, briefs the media regarding FEMA's support of local officials after Hurricane Irene.
While much of the media attention is on Hurricane Irene's potential impacts along the East Coast of the U.S., FEMA is continuing to work closely with state and local officials in Puerto Rico - a U.S. territory that's already been affected by this hurricane. On Monday, Irene passed right over the island, bringing torrential rains and high winds, ultimately causing widespread power and water outages across the island. Shortly after, President Obama signed an emergency declaration for Puerto Rico, making additional federal resources available to supplement commonwealth and local response efforts.
I'd like to personally commend the efforts of first responders in the affected area, who are still working tirelessly to ensure the immediate needs of those affected are being met. They're an important part of the team, and I'm thankful for the strong relationship FEMA has with the first responder community in Puerto Rico.
We've already received a request to conduct preliminary damage assessments in the affected municipalities - and the weather conditions will allow us to do these assessments starting tomorrow. The teams will be looking for damage for both public assistance (which provides assistance to local government and private non-profit groups) and individual assistance (which provides assistance to affected individuals and business owners).
Our goal right now in Puerto Rico is to conduct these damage assessments as quickly as possible so we can help the governor determine whether the scope of the damages is beyond what the commonwealth is capable of handling, and if additional federal assistance is needed.
So for those along the East Coast of the U.S., I urge you to get prepared for Irene. The storm seems to be building strength as it moves further north, and we in Puerto Rico can attest to the importance of being prepared.