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UPDATES: Hurricane Maria Relief Efforts for Americans Citizens in Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands

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Washington, September 28, 2017 | comments
Hurricane Maria Response and Recovery Update

September 28, 2017

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.
FEMA and its federal partners continue 24-hour operations to reach inaccessible areas of Puerto Rico to reach survivors, provide fuel to hospitals, and re-open. Roosevelt Roads is open to receive flights in addition to Aguadilla, freeing runways at the San Juan airport for commercial traffic.

FEMA Urban Search and Rescue, the Department of Health and Human Services, Commonwealth officials, and the National Guard have reached and are servicing all municipalities in Puerto Rico.
While significant progress is being made in the response to Hurricane Maria, recovery for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands will be long and frustrating, and will require the help of the whole community.
The federal government’s full attention is on the Hurricane Maria response. Well before it made landfall in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, federal resources were staged to arrive as quickly as possible.

The federal government’s immediate focus is:
1. Conducting life-saving rescue and medical missions
2. Clearing routes of debris
3. Restoring emergency communications and power generation, and
4. Maintaining a heavy flow of meals, water and other commodities for communities

The travel distance to the Islands; as well as substantial impacts to air and sea ports, has presented complex challenges requiring a phased approach to the delivery of personnel, resources, equipment to move the resources, and lodging for responders.

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.

To donate or volunteer for the U.S. Virgin Islands or Puerto Rico, contact the voluntary or charitable organization of your choice through the National Voluntary Agencies Active in Disasters (NVOAD) at www.nvoad.org. NVOAD is coordinating closely with the Puerto Rico Governor’s Office on offers of assistance. To make a cash donation directly to the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, visit www.unitedforpuertorico.com.

Delivery of Commodities and Communications

Officials in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico opened points of distribution (POD) in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands for survivors to get meals, water, and other commodities. The Governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands announced that locations in St. Thomas, St. Croix, and St. John will be open Friday.

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.

FEMA’s National Business Emergency Operations Center (NBEOC) is facilitating private sector requests for humanitarian relief. The NBEOC continues coordination between government and private sector organizations as the community responds to Hurricanes Maria.

Mobile Emergency Response Support (MERS) communications assets and personnel continue to support the FEMA Incident Management Assistance Teams (IMAT), Urban Search and Rescue (US&R), National Disaster Medical System (NDMS), and other federal teams in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. As of September 27, 2017, there are more than 30 MERS personnel in Puerto Rico and more than 20 MERS personnel in the USVI.

A U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) mobile communications team is in Puerto Rico to help improve communications across the storm-impacted area.

Life Safety and Life Sustaining

FEMA search and rescue teams have accessed 90 percent of Puerto Rico, conducting search and rescue operations 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 September 27.

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.

The U.S. Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority Waste Management, and USACE are addressing potential public health risks of garbage build up; coordinating route clearance of wires and poles to enable garbage haulers to access the St. Thomas landfill.

The National Guard Bureau (NGB) has thousands of Guard members on the ground in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands taking part in security and support operations. The Air National Guard is focused on transporting food, water, and communications capabilities as well as rapidly increasing airlift into affected areas.

More than 180 Federal Law Enforcement Officers (FLEO) are in San Juan and the U.S. Virgin Islands supporting search and rescue, medical teams, and other federal responders, additional FLEOs are en route expected to arrive this week. Additional law enforcement support from New York State Police is on the ground in St. John.

Fuel, Transportation, and Debris

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has supported the restoration of services to seven of eight commercial airports in Puerto Rico. The FAA has 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 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.

In support of Hurricane Maria relief and reconstitution operations, the U.S. government established Temporary Air Traffic Flow Management Procedures for flights into San Juan International Airport in Puerto Rico. Ponce, Roosevelt Roads, and Aguadilla Airports in Puerto Rico are open for military and relief flights during daylight.

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

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) deployed debris experts to assist FEMA with debris management strategies in Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands. One of the first priorities is emergency route clearance in multiple locations to enable access to remote locations.
USACE also completed a Blue Roof install on Cyril E. King Airport on St. Thomas, and completed its first residential Blue Roof install on September 23. Assessments for St. Croix are ongoing. A customer service center for Blue Roof installations opened over the weekend for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

To bolster the delivery of fuel throughout Puerto Rico, 100 delivery trucks were dispatched by the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) carrying an estimated 275,000 gallons of diesel fuel.

The federal government is working with its interagency and private sector partners to support availability, transportation and delivery of fuel, based on priorities identified by Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The federal support for fuel transportation includes air and sea logistical support by the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), U.S. Northern Command, the U.S. Navy, and U.S. Coast Guard, in coordination with the private sector.

Power is restored to Centro Médico Hospital in San Juan and San Pablo Hospital in Bayamón, Puerto Rico. The Governor Juan F. Luis Hospital in St. Croix and the Schneider Regional Medical Center in St. Thomas are established as mobile hospitals. More than half of dialysis centers in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are open and accessible for patients. More critical care facilities will re-open in the coming days as power and access are restored.

The U.S. Coast Guard reports the following port statuses with additional ports opening as assessments continue:
  • Puerto Rico
  • Open: Port of San Juan, Guayanilla, Salinas, and Talboa
  • Open with restrictions: Arecibo, Fajardo, Culebra, Guayama, Mayaguez, and Vieques
  • U.S. Virgin Islands
  • Open: St. Thomas: Charlotte Amalie, East Gregerie Channel, Crown Bay, West Gregerie Channel; St. Croix: Krause Lagoon, Frederiksted, Limetree Bay
  • Open with Restrictions: St. Thomas: Redhook Bay; St. John: Cruz Bay
USACE coordinated transportation of more than 300 FEMA or Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) generators from across the U.S. to meet anticipated requirements in the islands. Additional generators are arriving in the coming days.

In Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, USACE and DLA are conducting assessments of critical facilities for generator installation.

Information for Survivors

For those in declared areas who are able to do so, registering online, at www.DisasterAssistance.gov, is the quickest way to register for FEMA assistance. Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the recent hurricanes.

The American Red Cross Safe and Well website is a free public reunification tool that allows individuals and organizations to register and post messages to search for loved ones, or for individuals to indicate that they are safe. The site is always available, open to the public, and available in English and Spanish. There are a number of ways to use this service:
  • Registrations and searches can be done directly on the website.
  • Registrations can also be completed by texting SAFE to 78876. Messages exist in both Spanish and English.
  • To speak with someone at the American Red Cross concerning a missing friend or relative who has a serious, pre-existing health or mental health condition, please contact 1-800 Red Cross (1-800-733-2767).
  • 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.
Anyone who finds a child who may be separated from parents or caregivers, please contact the local police and enter basic information and/or a photo into the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children's Unaccompanied Minors Registry. If you find an unaccompanied child, please indicate whether the child has a disability or has access and functional needs in the appropriate field in the Unaccompanied Minors Registry. If you do not have access to the internet, please call 1-866-908-9570.

FEMA is raising awareness that Hurricane Maria disaster survivors, and their friends and family, should be alert for false rumors, scams, identity theft, and fraud. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Visit FEMA's Hurricane Rumor Control page to get the most accurate information from trusted sources.

Mail service returned to the U.S. Virgin Islands this week. The Cruz Bay Post Office in St. John will is providing mail service from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. In St. Thomas, more packages and mail are arriving.

Declarations

On September 26, President Trump amended the earlier major disaster declaration for Puerto Rico approving a 100 percent federal cost share for debris removal and emergency protective measures, including direct Federal assistance, for 180 days from the date of the declaration (September 20).

On September 26, President Trump approved a 100 percent federal cost share for debris removal and emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance, for 180 days from the start of the incident period for Hurricane Irma. Additional amendments for Hurricane Maria may be approved at a later date.

On September 23, President Trump amended the earlier major disaster declaration for the U.S. Virgin Islands to make funding available to affected individuals in St. Thomas and St. John.

Safety

Stay off the roads. Emergency workers may be assisting people in flooded areas or cleaning up debris. You can help them by staying off the roads and out of the way.
Use extreme caution when entering buildings that are damaged.

Ensure water is safe to drink, cook or clean with after a flood. Oftentimes a boil water order is put in place following a flood.

Avoid strenuous work during the warmest part of the day. Use a buddy system when working in extreme heat, and take frequent breaks.

Additional information for the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico is available at the following locations:
Additional information regarding Hurricane Maria is available in English and Spanish at:

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