Updated Sep 22, 2022 - Energy & Environment

Rescue crews in Puerto Rico struggle to reach residents cut off by Fiona

Firefighters from the DOE Barceloneta carried rescue a 91-year-old woman who was trapped in her home after a flood.

Barceloneta, Puerto Rico, firefighters rescue a 91-year-old woman on Tuesday after flooding from Hurricane Fiona. Photo: Puerto Rico Firefighters Corps/Twitter

President Biden approved a major disaster declaration for Puerto Rico and ordered federal aid to assist with recovery efforts in the areas affected by deadly Hurricane Fiona, the White House announced Wednesday evening.

Driving the news: Local officials told AP Wednesday they were having difficulty trying to reach stranded residents days after Fiona swept through, cutting off areas in "at least six municipalities" after triggering heavy rains, mudslides and flooding that destroyed bridges, roads and property.

The remains of a bridge in Rio Grande de Arecibo, Puerto Rico, after Hurricane Fiona swept through.
The remains of a bridge over Rio Grande de Arecibo on Thursday after Hurricane Fiona swept through, unleashing heavy rains and extensive flooding. Satellite image: ©2022 Maxar Technologies

The big picture: Fiona knocked out power to the entire island, and Gov. Pedro Pierluisi requested the major disaster declaration on Tuesday.

  • Pierluisi tweeted his thanks to Biden and Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Deanne Criswell for the declaration, which he said would ensure towns had additional FEMA help to assist in storm damage recovery.

By the numbers: Over a million people were still without power and more than 450,000 had no running water or only intermittent service in the U.S. territory on Wednesday, according to government data.

What they're saying: Criswell said at a briefing in Puerto Rico on Wednesday after visiting affected areas that initial recovery efforts were about "stabilizing the incident and bringing the communities to a level that they can function."

  • Then officials would look at moving into rebuilding infrastructure to be more resilient "so that they can withstand future impacts."

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

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