Bush Declares Puerto Rico Disaster Area Calderon Requests Federal Disaster Declaration As Most Of Island Remains In The Dark 70% Still Without Power Rosario Defends Cutting Electricity Prepa Takes Entire Electricity System Offline, Governor Uncertain When Service Will Be Restored
Bush Declares Puerto Rico Disaster Area After Jeanne Lashes Island
September 18, 2004
WASHINGTON, Sept 18 (AFP) - US President George W. Bush designated Puerto Rico a disaster zone Saturday, freeing up federal emergency funds to help the US island commonwealth in its recovery efforts after Hurricane Jeanne hammered the Caribbean this week.
"The president today declared a major disaster exists in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and ordered federal aid to supplement commonwealth and local recovery efforts in the area struck by Tropical Storm Jeanne and resulting landslides and mudslides beginning on September 14, 2004 and continuing," the White House said in a statement.
The federal funding "is available on a cost-share basis to commonwealth and eligible local governments in all commonwealth municipalities at 100 percent of the total eligible costs for debris removal and emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance," the statement said.
At least two people died as the storm battered Puerto Rico, a hilly, densely populated island of more than four million, and another four were killed in the Dominican Republic as the storm unleashed floods and caused widespread damage.
The US government also named a coordinating officer for federal recovery operations in the area, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency said that "additional forms of assistance may be designated as soon as damage surveys can be completed."
How To Help
Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration, 866-280-4357, hurricane hotline operating from 8 a.m. to midnight for information and assistance.
Statement By The White House Press Secretary
September 18, 2004
WASHINGTON, Sept. 18 /PRNewswire/ -- The following is a statement issued by the Press Secretary:
The President today declared a major disaster exists in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and ordered Federal aid to supplement Commonwealth and local recovery efforts in the area struck by Tropical Storm Jeanne and resulting landslides and mudslides beginning on September 14, 2004, and continuing.
Federal funding is available on a cost share basis to Commonwealth and eligible local governments in all Commonwealth municipalities at 100 percent of the total eligible costs for debris removal and emergency protective measures, including direct Federal assistance. Federal funding is available at 100 percent of the total eligible costs for a period of up to 72 hours.
Federal funding is also available on a cost-share basis for hazard mitigation measures for the entire Commonwealth.
Representing the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Michael D. Brown, Under Secretary for Emergency Preparedness and Response, Department of Homeland Security, named Peter Martinasco as the Federal Coordinating Officer for Federal recovery operations in the affected area.
The Agency said that additional forms of assistance may be designated as soon as damage surveys can be completed in the affected area.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: FEMA (202) 646-4600.
Web site: http://www.whitehouse.gov/
CONTACT: White House Press Office, +1-202-456-2580
Most Of Island Remains In The Dark, Calderon Requests Federal Disaster Declaration
September 17, 2004
San Juan, Sep 16 (EFE).- Most of Puerto Rico remained in the dark Thursday in the wake of Hurricane Jeanne, which killed three people and brought about a state of emergency, prompting Gov. Sila Calderon to ask President Bush to declare the island a disaster area.
Four others were injured by the storm, which was a tropical storm when it hit here but became a hurricane early Thursday, before weakening again to tropical storm status as it passed over the nearby Dominican Republic.
"This situation is of such severity and magnitude that it exceeds the capacity of an effective response by the Free Associated State" - Puerto Rico's official designation as a U.S. commonwealth - Calderon said in her letter to Bush.
The governor told a press conference that the island's principal power lines were down and some 600,000 people were without water as well.
Calderon said she would survey the hardest hit areas from the air once the weather improved and report back to local and federal authorities on damage to dwellings and agriculture.
She said she signed an executive decree ordering the island government's Department of Families to grant $500-$1,000 in aid to households hit by Jeanne.
She pledged that the families who sustained damage "will receive the aid 24 hours after being counted and declared eligible. The aid will be given tomorrow and the census taken today."
Electric services have returned to some 131,500 of the 1 million customers left in the dark, all the distribution lines in the western area have been repaired, and the international airport outside San Juan has power, Calderon said.
"We continue working at full force and we will increase the number of customers who have restored services throughout today," she said.
Calderon said some 3,000 employees were working to restore water services to around 600,000 customers hurt by the storm.
Island officials have made restoring power at hospitals a priority, said Brig. Gen. Francisco Marquez of Puerto Rico's National Guard, noting that the country's largest medical facility, the Rio Piedras Medical Center, is operating normally.
Jeanne caused severe flooding in much of the island, which is still being pelted by rain.
Strong winds tore off tree branches and business signs and knocked down power, while many roads were rendered impassable.
Flash-flood warnings are in effect throughout the island, Israel Matos of the National Weather Service said.
Some rivers in western Puerto Rico and the northern section of the central mountain range are on the verge of overflowing.
Currently, 3,629 evacuees are staying in shelters set up at 159 schools, Calderon said.
Two Days Later, 70% Of Island Still Without Power
September 17, 2004
SAN JUAN (AP) Half of the island continued to be without water and 70% were without power on Friday, while more than 2,000 people continued to stay in shelters two days after tropical storm Jeanne passed over the island, government officials said.
With uncertainty remaining about reestablishing electricity on the island, the executive director of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, Hector Rosario, said Friday that 417,000 clients now have electric service.
That figure means that approximately 30 percent of the population has power.
The electricity stopped functioning after the government decided to shut down the system for security reasons due to the storm, which brought flooding that has forced 2,225 people into 55 shelters.
"This number has fallen considerably because many people already have been able to return to their homes," said Nazario Lugo, subdirector of the State Agency for Emergency Management and Disaster Administration, at a press conference.
The towns with the most people in shelters are Canovanas, Juana Diaz, Dorado and Toa Baja.
At the moment, 35 municipalities have submitted preliminary evaluations of damages, after Gov. Sila M. Calderon asked President George W. Bush to declare the entire island a disaster zone.
According to the reports received so far, the towns most affected are Caguas, Aguas Buenas, Cidra, Santa Isabel, Salinas, Patillas, Guayama, Arroyo, Coamo, Arecibo, Lares, Utuado, Barceloneta, Camuy, Maunabo, Yabucoa, Naguabo, Humacao, Añasco, Rincón, Isabela, Toa Baja, Cataño, Dorado and Toa Alta.
Lugo said the Aqueduct and Sewer Authority reported 633,672 clients with water service, about 54 percent of the island.
The Transportation and Public Works Department reported that 37 highways are still not passable in Orocovis, Naranjito, Hormigueros, Cabo Rojo, Santa Isabel and Salinas.
The Ports Authority said that trips to Vieques and Culebra from Fajardo would begin again on Friday at 7 a.m.
Rosario Defends Cutting Electricity; 403,000 Clients Have Light
September 17, 2004
SAN JUAN (AP) The executive director of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (Prepa) on Friday refused to say that the decision to turn off the electricity for the entire island during tropical storm Jeanne has resulted in a error in the system.
Rosario said on Wednesday that he decided to shut off the system, leaving a total of 1.6 million Prepa clients without service, in order to prevent accidents with live electric wires that could get knocked down in the storm and cause major damage to the distribution system.
"We made the responsible decision, which we had to make to protect the citizens, by protecting the Puerto Rico electric system," Rosario said in a television interview.
Rosario responded to press reports from Thursday which said that the lack of electricity on the entire island was the result of human error which caused a collapse of the system in a domino effect.
The AEE director stressed that on Friday morning, less than 48 hours after the storm passed over the island, approximately 403,000 clients had electric service.
However, Rosario did not offer an estimate of when service would be restored to the entire island.
He said on Friday, among other jobs, they will repair the main lines in the west, and hope to restore service to "a great number of clients."
Prepa Takes Entire System Offline Until Jeanne Passes
September 16, 2004
Puerto Rico's state power company Prepa has taken the country's entire electricity system offline until tropical storm Jeanne passes through, Prepa spokesperson Virginia Gómez told BNamericas.
Jeanne hit the island on the morning of September 14, and as a precautionary measure Prepa took the system offline midday September 15.
Prepa will restore services when weather conditions improve, she said, adding that it is difficult to specify when that will be. Electricity service has been re-established to the international airport and to the country's central hospital.
Governor Uncertain When Service Will Be Restored
Por Istra Pacheco
September 16, 2004
San Juan - The government could not say with certainty on Thursday when electric service on the island would be completely restored, leading to concerns on the part of island residents regarding how long they would have to remain in darkness.
Gov. Sila M. Calderón said she still hasn't been able to finish the physical evaluation of the system because of weather conditions, which have deteriorated due to the remnants of Jeanne which became a hurricane after leaving the island.
"This afternoon we will conduct the complete inspection or evaluation We know about the failures through the computer systems. The computers indicate that there are breakdowns, but the extent and type of the damage must be seen visually," Calderon said in a press conference.
Only a few areas of Ponce, Santa Isabel, Salinas, Culebra and Vieques had electricity on Thursday.
The governor said that it has been confirmed that many electric lines, mainly in eastern and central Puerto Rico, have been damaged, although the main energy production centers remain "in tact".
At around 9:00 AM on Thursday, two helicopters from the Electrical Energy Authority (EEA) received authorization to fly over the metropolitan area and the center of the island to inspect the damages.
"To complete the inspection and evaluation of the damages, an aerial inspection is required," Calderon affirmed.
Calderon defended her decision to turn off all electricity, and reminded people that during Hurricane Hugo, six people were killed when live electric lines fell on them or on their houses, something which was prevented this time.
After Hugo passed through, six other employees of the EEA were killed "in attempting to get back to work too quickly" or "by risking more than they should have". For this reason the Governor requested calmness and sensitivity on behalf of workers.
"All sectors of the (Electrical Energy) Authority are on the street(s), working on the inspection," she said.
"The business of electrical energy is complex, dangerous and requires a lot of concentration, care and patience. I ask Puerto Ricans to give some space to their fellow countrymen, the (electrical workers) who are risking their lives," she added.
Once the system begins to function again, the priority will be to provide power to hospitals, water filtration plants, shelters and the airport.