Puerto Rico Welcomes Hurricane Irma Evacuees as It Deals With Own Damage

WASHINGTON — Puerto Rico is acting as an incident support base for hurricane response to neighboring islands while it also works on its own issues.

The island sustained close to $1 billion in damage, Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said at a Thursday news conference in D.C.

Hurricane Irma knocked out power to 75 percent of the island, but Rosselló said that number now is down to 10 percent as work continues to restore the energy infrastructure. A preliminary estimate that 300 homes were destroyed is expected to increase.

“We’re working closely with FEMA to make sure that people’s lives are restored and they can get back to normalcy,” Rosselló said.

Puerto Rico is providing shelter and medical attention to thousands of evacuees from other impacted islands. About 500 people arrived on Thursday.

“That process is ongoing. We’re likely to receive about 2,000 more U.S. citizens [Friday] morning, and perhaps another 300 the following date,” Rosselló said.

Puerto Rico expects to welcome about 4,000 hurricane refugees overall. Injured and ill hurricane survivors in Puerto Rican hospitals include British, Dutch, French and U.S. citizens.

Federal help for Puerto Rico includes $2.5 million from the U.S. Department of Transpiration to rebuild roads and highways.

“This is the first package,” Rep. Jennifer González-Colón, R-PR, said. Additional money for recovery will be determined by damage reports yet to be filed by municipalities and the Puerto Rican government.

“The FEMA administration has been doing a wonderful job on the island,” González-Colón said.

Supplies, food and water have been leaving Puerto Rico for other impacted islands through government and private efforts. At the news conference, former Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila praised efforts being undertaken by average citizens.

“Puerto Ricans are collecting goods to send to the islands, people are taking their private boats to go over there and bring water,” Vila observed. “We need to be proud of what we’re doing regarding our neighbors in the islands.”

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