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FEMA Continues Hurricane Maria Response and Relief Operations

Release date: 
September 22, 2017
Release Number: 

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) top priority is to provide life-saving resources to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, while aggressively working to restore power and operability of ports to bring additional commodities and personnel into disaster-affected areas. Several airports have successfully been opened on the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico to bring in commodities, personnel, and life-saving and life-safety resources.

The logistics support ship SS Wright is currently in the Caribbean Sea carrying more than 1.3 million meals and nearly one million liters of freshwater for delivery to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Two shipping barges with 1.2 million liters of water, 31 generators, and 6,060 cots have arrived in St. Thomas, and are awaiting power restoration at the port facility for offload. Two additional shipping barges loaded with food, water, and emergency relief supplies are en route to the Caribbean Sea from Florida, and more than 4.4 million meals are being flown to Puerto Rico from staging areas in Kentucky and Florida. Commodities – including meals, water, cots, and blankets—are currently at a FEMA Distribution Center and Warehouse in San Juan, Puerto Rico.  Sailors assigned to the amphibious ships USS Kearsarge and USS Oak Hill embarked with Marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, conducted damage assessment flights, beach assessments, and evacuated patients from a St. Croix hospital Friday. These sailors and Marines also embedded key ground surgical teams on the island of St. Thomas.

During the FEMA Urban Search & Rescue (US&R) operations beginning September 21, the task forces rescued 65 individuals and searched over 45 structures. Four US&R task forces are stationed in the Caribbean with another eight teams awaiting aircraft flights. The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) is conducting search and rescue operations in St. Croix and in the surrounding waters, and have rescued 15 individuals.  

Portlight Inclusive Disaster Strategies is providing 12 generators to Puerto Rico Center for Independent Living and The University Center for Excellence on Developmental Disabilities. These will be used to set up power stations for people with disabilities to power their wheelchairs and other assistive technologies. For more information, visit their webpage.

On September 20, President Trump issued major disaster declarations for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands as a result of Hurricane Maria.

Those in designated areas of Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands who are able to register for assistance may do so online at  If able, online registration is the quickest way to register for federal assistance.  Survivors who do not have access to the internet may register by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY). If you use 711 relay or Video Relay Service (VRS), call 800-621-3362 directly.

Federal Efforts Underway as of September 22, 2017   

  • The American Red Cross Emergency App features an “I’m Safe” button that allows users to post a message to their social accounts, letting friends and family know they are out of harm’s way. The app can be downloaded for free in app stores by searching for “American Red Cross” or by texting ‘GETEMERGENCY’ to 90999.
  • U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) 
    • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has more than 120 responders in the islands responding to the impacts of Hurricane Maria. Ongoing FEMA-assigned missions in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico include temporary power, temporary roofing, debris removal/technical assistance, infrastructure assessment, and commodities management.
  • The U.S. National Guard Bureau (NGB) is responding to Hurricane Maria with more than 1,600 service members conducting security and support operations. Additional National Guard personnel are preparing to respond, and we will help as long as we are needed.
    • In Puerto Rico, while damage assessments continue the National Guard established two Joint Incident Site Communications Capabilities to help restore communication for military and communities to utilize around the island. As damage assessments are completed, the National Guard remains ready to fulfill the needs of the Governor.
    • In the U.S. Virgin Islands, the National Guard provided special-tactics personnel who were able to clear airfields and establish tower operations in St. Thomas and St. Croix for military aircraft.  Search and rescue operations, security and law enforcement support, as well as route clearance and life-sustainment commodity distribution continue.
  • U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) is conducting incident awareness and assessment missions in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
  • U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is continuing to work with its partners in response and power restoration efforts for Hurricane Maria. DOE is working closely with the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA), the American Public Power Association, the Department of Defense, and FEMA to facilitate mutual aid for the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. DOE emergency responders are deployed to St. Thomas and St. Croix in support of FEMA Incident Management Assistance Teams, and responders are scheduled to arrive in Puerto Rico Friday. Damage assessments and some power restoration efforts have begun in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. An eight-member advance team from WAPA which deployed to Puerto Rico ahead of Maria is assisting with damage assessments in Puerto Rico, and will join the local Virgin Islands utility in the work of damage assessment and power restoration as soon as possible. DOE is posting Situation Reports here, and WAPA is posting updates here.
  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has more than 200 HHS medical professionals and public health experts poised to travel to Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands to provide medical care and public health support. The HHS Disaster Distress Helpline assisted more than 5,000 callers in coping with the impacts of these storms. The helpline remains available 24 hours a day, 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746.
  • The U.S. Department of the Interior’s (DOI) Office of Law Enforcement sent 50 personnel to Puerto Rico. DOI officers provided medical assistance, and assisted local hotels with shelter and evacuation plans.
  • National Park Service (NPS) incident management team is in San Juan to provide immediate assistance and communications.
  • Twenty U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service personnel scheduled for response and recovery operations in the Caribbean will work in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service.
  • U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) offices in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico will remain closed until further notice. As of September 22, 2017, SSA requested that the United States Postal Service (USPS) hold all checks destined for Hurricane Maria affected areas for 45 days before returning them to the Department of the Treasury (DOTreas) for cancelling.
  • U.S. Postal Service (USPS) facilities on Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are closed—there are no retail services, package or mail pick up at any USPS location. As soon as it is safe to do so, USPS will begin to re-open postal facilities on the islands. Depending on the scope and level of damage, this could necessitate the use of temporary quarters on the islands and mainland plant processing and staging of Caribbean District mail, with a focus on transportation and distribution of essential items such as medications, Treasury checks, Social Security benefits, etc. Customers can find the latest service statuses at USPS Service Alerts.




FEMA's mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from and mitigate all hazards.

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Last Updated: 
January 3, 2018 - 11:59