PONCE, Puerto Rico (AP) — President Joe Biden promised to “rebuild it all” while visiting Puerto Rico on Monday, as tens of thousands of people remain without power two weeks after Hurricane Fiona struck and residents worry that Washington’s dedication to their recovery could prove fleeting.
“I’m committed to this island,” he said after receiving a briefing from local officials, acknowledging that Fiona was only the latest in a string of disasters that have pummeled the U.S. territory in recent years.
“Puerto Ricans are a strong people,” Biden said. “But even so, you have had to bear so much, and more than need be, and you haven’t gotten the help in a timely way.”
The damage from Fiona, which came only five years after the even more powerful Hurricane Maria, will test his administration’s ability to help the island of 3.2 million people recover and bolster its defenses. Puerto Rico has a higher poverty rate than any state, and it remains vulnerable to storms that are only becoming more powerful and frequent as climate change continues.
“What happened with this hurricane is that even though it was Category 1, in terms of water it was like Category 4,” Puerto Rico’s governor, Pedro Pierluisi, told Biden.
President Joe Biden, with first lady Jill Biden, delivers remarks on Hurricane Fiona, Monday, Oct. 3, 2022, in Ponce, Puerto Rico. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)