President Biden addresses Federal Emergency Management Agency employees, Florida and the nation after receiving a briefing from FEMA officials on ThursdayBut it is expected to become a hurricane again, continuing to defeat Florida.
“This could be the deadliest hurricane in Florida history,” said a gloomy president at FEMA headquarters. “The numbers are still unclear, but we are hearing early reports of what could be a substantial loss of life.” Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno, who was hit hard by Ian, said on Thursday he believed the death toll would be “in the hundreds”. However, Governor Ron DeSantis later said the number had not been confirmed.
“My message to the people and country of Florida is that there are times when America comes together,” the president said. “We’re going to come together as a team, as one America.”
The president also told reporters he plans to move to Florida and to Puerto Rico, which suffered an island-wide power outage following Hurricane Fiona earlier this month. He also said that he may have to request more money from Congress for Ian to respond.
Hurricane Ian is sending devastating flooding to east-central regions of the state, the National Hurricane Center says, with storm surges and wind shear that will spread to southern states. Ian struck the west coast of Florida as a Category 4 hurricane, weakening and moving across the country.
Earlier Thursday, the president approved a Florida disaster declaration, freeing up federal resources for the state. The major disaster declaration makes federal funding to Floridians in the counties of Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Hardy, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Pinellas and Sarasota, and includes things like temporary housing and home repair assistance, as well as less- can. Cost credit for damage to uninsured property. For the first 100 days, the federal government will cover all eligible assistance for debris removal and emergency safety measures.
On Thursday morning, Mr Biden spoke with Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has been a harsh critic of Mr Biden’s economic, immigration and COVID-19 policies, to discuss what the administration is doing to support Florida in the face of the storm. , Mr Biden said he has spoken with DeSantis about Hurricane Ian “four or five” times and dismissed political differences when a reporter asked him to characterize their relationship.
“It has nothing to do with our disagreement politically,” the president said on Thursday. “It’s about saving people’s lives, homes and businesses.”
“First thing this morning, I spoke to Gov. DeSantis and again offered full federal support,” Biden said. “Earlier this week, I approved their request for a pre-landfall emergency declaration to provide direct federal assistance to the state for emergency protective measures to save the living, including search and rescue and shelter and food. Earlier this morning, I read the governor’s recent request for the fastest major disaster declaration. This means the federal government will bear 100% of the cost to clean up the debris and all costs attached to the state to save lives have to do.”
“The federal government will also cover most of the cost to rebuild public buildings such as schools and fire stations,” the president continued. “And people in Florida who have destroyed or damaged homes, you don’t have enough insurance, that means the federal government will provide personal assistance of $37,900 for home repairs and $37,900 for lost property, automobiles. Everything from a lost wedding ring.”
At FEMA headquarters, the president told employees they were “working hell” and “reinforcing people’s trust in institutions.”
Finally, the president urged Florida residents to follow the instructions of local officials and stay inside until the water recedes.
FEMA administrators are visiting Florida this week to examine response efforts, and see where more help is needed.
Search and rescue operations are already underway by land, air and sea. In addition to US Coast Guard rescue efforts, the Pentagon has more than 1,200 vehicles and 25 watercraft to support search and rescue operations. There are about 200 shelters open in the Sunshine State.
Ian has disrupted the regular schedule in Washington, where the House Select Panel adjourned its Wednesday hearing investigating the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol.
—Nicole Sagana contributed to this report.