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FEMA Provides Update on Federal Response in Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands

Release date: 
September 28, 2017
Release Number: 

WASHINGTON – The top priority of the federal government is continuing to provide life safety and life sustaining resources to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The federal government’s full attention is on the immediate Hurricane Maria response, and focusing on conducting life-saving rescue and medical missions, clearing routes of debris, restoring emergency communications and power generation, and maintaining a heavy flow of meals, water, and other commodities for communities.

There are thousands of federal staff, including more than 600 FEMA personnel, on the ground in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands engaged in response and recovery operations from Hurricanes Maria and Irma. Hundreds of additional federal personnel are supporting response and recovery operations through mainland coordination centers and logistics facilities.

Below is a general update on federal efforts to support response efforts of Governors Rosselló and Mapp.

Life-Saving and Medical

FEMA Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) teams have accessed 90 percent of Puerto Rico, conducting search and rescue operations, humanitarian missions, and helping to assess hospitals. FEMA US&R task forces saved or assisted 843 individuals and five pets, while searching over 2,600 structures.

As of this morning, more than half of dialysis centers in Puerto Rico are open and accessible for patients. More critical care facilities will re-open in the coming days as access and power are restored. FEMA completed assessments of 47 of 69 hospitals in Puerto Rico with 44 of these operational.

Medical evacuations for dialysis patients continued to be coordinated with the Virgin Islands Department of Health and the Department of Health and Human Services counterparts. FEMA is providing lodging for the remaining patients and wrap around services are being coordinated by the American Red Cross until additional movement can be confirmed. The scheduled evacuation of general and dialyses patients is expected to conclude tomorrow as all will have been transported to the Continental United States.

The U.S. Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority drinking water system is back online, and other drinking water systems on the islands are top priority for receiving generators. Additionally, the Concordia potable water pump station is online in St. Croix.


U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) debris experts are on the ground working on debris management strategies in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. One of the first priorities is emergency route clearance in multiple locations to enable access to remote locations.

Members of the Debris Team continue to complete debris assessments across the U.S. Virgin Islands, to date estimated debris quantities over 1.1 million cubic yards.

17 chainsaw teams (34 individuals) and one Incident Management Team (23 individuals) from the Department of Agriculture United States Forest Service arrived in Puerto Rico yesterday to conduct emergency road clearance and manage logistics. Nine additional teams are en route.

Power, Communications, and Transportation

The Transportation Security Administration is continuing to use hand-held metal detectors to screen passengers at the San Juan airport. Generators are providing power to operate a four-lane checkpoint, x-ray machines, and body scanners. TSA is able to handle all passengers who are ticketed.

The FAA restored full Air Traffic Control (ATC) services to Luis Munoz Marin International Airport in San Juan and limited ATC services to Rafael Hernandez Airport in Aguadilla. Recovery efforts are now supporting more than a dozen commercial passenger flights per day at Luis Munoz Marin International Airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The Henry E. Rohlsen Airport in St. Croix remains open to military aircraft, while Cyril E. King Airport St. Thomas had been opened for limited commercial aircraft.  

The federal government is working with its interagency and private sector partners to ensure that fuel continues to remain available. The governments of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are working to prioritize fuel distribution throughout the islands and to install generators for power restoration.


FEMA, working in coordination with federal partners, provided millions of meals and millions of liters of water to Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands. Additional meals and water continue to arrive to the islands daily.  Puerto Rico established eleven regional staging areas, serving 77 communities.  The U.S. Virgin Islands established 17 distribution sites.


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