Two hurricanes, Irma and Maria, have devastated the Caribbean in quick succession, causing an unprecedented amount of damage.
Because the storms traveled so closely together, the teams we had deployed and were already on the ground in response to Irma had to shelter in place during Maria, choosing their shelter-in-place locations wisely.
Now that the storms have passed, the response and recovery can begin.
Federal agencies have come together to provide a variety of resources for impacted communities.
Nearly 7,000 federal employees are on the ground in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to support the governors’ response efforts. These employees come from a variety of agencies, including our own, and have brought a wealth of resources with them.
We’ve been working closely with our partners over at the Department of Energy to coordinate power restoration efforts, including mutual aid and transportation for additional crews to support ongoing damage assessments. The Army Corps of Engineers has helped supply several generators to St. Thomas as well as Puerto Rico, with more on the way. They, as well as other supporting agencies, have worked to support temporary power in affected areas.
Additionally, a disaster medical assistance team from the Department of Health and Human Services is currently working to supplement the hard-working doctors and nurses on the islands. Four more of these teams will join them.
The Department of Transportation has opened several airports in the area to military and relief flights to help assistance get where it’s most needed as quickly as possible.
For the FEMA response, in addition to the employees we’ve deployed, we sent our urban search and rescue teams to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, with more teams on their way. Additional commodities—including food, water, generators, and cots—are en route. Two mobile emergency response support teams are in the U.S. Virgin Islands supporting communications needs and more staff are on the way to provide additional telecommunications and logistics support.
Recovery itself is not a linear process. This recovery will pose some unique challenges that we are prepared to face head on.
Our support for the islands hasn’t wavered—from when they were first hit by Irma, when Jose threatened, and now after Maria has swept straight through—we have been there. These Caribbean islands, while separated from the continental United States by miles of Atlantic Ocean, are still part of the United States. Our support to the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico is just as strong as our support to any of the continental states—after all, we take care of our own.