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In a series of tweets, President Donald Trump has defended his reaction to the disaster in Puerto Rico, which has been ravaged by Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria.

Much of Puerto Rico territory has lost power, while residents say they are running low on medicines and food.

Critics have accused President Trump of being slow to respond, and of showing more concern for Texas and Florida after they were hit by hurricanes.

President Trump has announced he will visit Puerto Rico next week.

Hurricane Maria battered Puerto Rico on September 20, killing 16 people and knocking out electricity, water and telephone services.

The hurricane tore through the island as one of the most powerful storms in nearly 90 years.

About 44% of the 3.5 million residents living on the island are still without clean drinking water six days after the storm barreled through, the Defense Department said on September 26.

Image source WhiteHouse.gov

Hurricane Maria Leaves Puerto Rico Without Power

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Puerto Rico’s government has asked a judge to defer key deadlines in its bankruptcy case as it grapples with Maria’s devastation.

President Trump came under fire after he spent the weekend focusing on a feud with NFL players and coaches, instead of acknowledging the Puerto Rico disaster.

He tweeted about the crisis on September 25 – but angered critics by suggesting that Puerto Rico’s $72 billion debt needed to be addressed amid its appeal for relief aid: “Texas & Florida are doing great but Puerto Rico, which was already suffering from broken infrastructure & massive debt, is in deep trouble owed to Wall Street and the banks which, sadly, must be dealt with. Food, water and medical are top priorities – and doing well. #FEMA.”

On September 26, the White House announced that President Trump had increased federal funding and assistance for debris removal and emergency protective measures in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of the storm.

The president said he would visit Puerto Rico on October 3 – nearly a fortnight after the storm struck – because it was the “earliest I can go without disrupting relief efforts”.

President Trump may also visit the US Virgin Islands, which was hit by both Hurricane Maria and Irma.

He said his administration was doing a “really good job” and that the Governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rossello, was “so grateful”.

President Trump said rescue efforts were complicated because Puerto Rico was offshore.

“This is a thing called the Atlantic ocean, this is tough stuff,” he said.

He added: “Puerto Rico is very important to me. The people are fantastic. I grew up in New York so I know many Puerto Rican people.”

Ricardo Rossello told Reuters President Trump’s handling of the disaster had been “excellent” and that the government had “responded very quickly” to the crisis.

More than 10,000 US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) staff are on the ground in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands to assist with relief efforts, according to the agency.

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Brock Long, the administrator of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), has said that Hurricane Irma will “devastate” either Florida or neighboring states.

He said parts of Florida would be without power for days. Half a million people in the state have been ordered to leave their homes.

Hurricane Irma has left a trail of destruction in the Caribbean, affecting an estimated 1.2 million people.

At least 20 people are known to have died so far.

Irma has been downgraded to a category 4 storm, but officials warn that it remains “extremely dangerous”.

According to the US National Weather Service, Irma was expected to bring wind speeds of around 165mph over the weekend as it hits Florida.

Brock Long said: “Hurricane Irma continues to be a threat that is going to devastate the United States in either Florida or some of the south-eastern states.”

“The entire south-eastern United States better wake up and pay attention,” he added.

The death toll continued to rise on September 8 in the Caribbean.

France’s Interior Minister Gérard Collomb said nine people were dead and seven missing in the French territory on St Martin, an island shared with the Netherlands, and St Barthélemy, known more commonly as St Barts. Another death – the second – has been confirmed in the Dutch territory of Sint Maarten.

French officials said six out of 10 homes on Saint-Martin were so badly damaged that they were uninhabitable.

The US Consulate General in Curacao said it believes an estimated 6,000 Americans are stranded on the island.

French, British and Dutch military authorities have deployed aid – including warships and planes equipped with food, water and troops – to their territories.

Irma, which most recently lashed the Turks and Caicos Islands and brought torrential rain to the Dominican Republic and Haiti, was headed towards Cuba and the Bahamas.

The worst of the storm is expected to hit east and central Cuba, with the eye of the storm predicted to pass between the north coast of Cuba and the Bahamas, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.

Image source Flickr

Hurricane Irma: At Least 9 Dead In Caribbean Islands, Heads Toward Puerto Rico

Hurricane Irma Upgraded to Category 5 as Approaching Caribbean

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About 50,000 tourists are fleeing or have fled Cuba, with resorts on the north coast now empty, Reuters reports.

A huge evacuation of south-eastern, low-lying coastal areas in the Bahamas has been ordered. The tourism ministry said in a video statement that thousands of tourists left before the storm’s arrival.

Meanwhile Brock Long predicted a “truly devastating” impact on Florida.

South Florida “may be uninhabitable for weeks or months” because of the storm, the US National Weather Service said.

On the archipelago of Turks and Caicos, with its population of about 35,000, one witness described a drop in pressure that could be felt in people’s chests.

Irma ripped off roofs on the capital island, Grand Turk, flooded streets, snapped utility poles and caused a widespread black-out.

Irma also caused some damage to roofs, flooding and power outages in the northern parts of the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

Irma is due to hit Florida as a category 4 hurricane on September 10, bringing storm surges and flooding.

Florida Governor Rick Scott said on September 7: “If you look at the size of this storm, it’s huge.”

“It’s wider than our entire state and could cause major and life-threatening impacts on both coasts – coast to coast.”

President Donald Trump said: “I can say this: Florida is as well prepared as you can be for something like this. Now it’s just a question of what happens.”

Hurricane and storm surge warnings have been issued for south Florida and the Florida Keys, the NHC says.

President Trump’s own Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach is among those ordered to evacuate, the Washington Post tweeted.

After ripping through Florida’s Atlantic coast, Irma is expected to move into Georgia and South Carolina.

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal said a mandatory evacuation on the state’s Atlantic coast was scheduled to begin on September 9.

Roads and airports have been jammed as thousands of people tried to evacuate areas at risk, with reports of fuel shortages and gridlock on some roads.

Many tourists are stranded with no seats left on flights back to their countries as flights to and from airports in Florida are being suspended.

Orlando’s international airport said commercial flights would stop from 17:00 local time on September 9.

Another storm, Jose, further out in the Atlantic behind Irma, is now a category 4 hurricane, with winds of up to 120mph.

Hurricane Katia, in the Gulf of Mexico, has strengthened to a category 2 storm, with winds of up to 85mph. A warning is in effect for the coast of the Mexican state of Veracruz and the storm is expected to make landfall on September 9.

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The White House has announced it will ask the Congress for emergency funding to help those affected by Hurricane Harvey.

President Donald Trump is expected to propose an initial $5.9 billion. Texas authorities say the state might need more than $125 billion.

At least 39 people have died in the storm and its aftermath. East of Houston, floodwaters are still rising.

Visiting Texas, VP Mike Pence promised federal help to “rebuild bigger and better than ever before”.

Mike Pence said 311,000 people had registered for disaster assistance. It is not yet clear how quickly funds might reach victims.

Visiting the battered town of Rockport, Mike Pence paid tribute to the people of Texas: “The resilience of the people of Texas has been inspiring.”

He added: “The American people are with you. We are here today, we will be here tomorrow and we will be here every day until this city and this state and this region rebuild bigger and better than ever before.”

Image source Flickr

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Hurricane Harvey: Texas at Risk of Severe Flooding

The White House also said President Trump would donate $1 million of his own money to the relief effort.

Firefighters in Houston have been carrying out door-to-door searches for survivors and bodies in an operation that could take up to two weeks.

Rescue operations are still continuing further east, where floodwaters are still rising.

Hundreds of thousands of residents who were evacuated or chose to leave are being warned not to return home until they are told it is safe to do so.

Earlier, a senior White House aide said about 100,000 homes, not all of which were fully insured, had been affected by the storm and the flooding that accompanied it.

The US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said its teams had rescued more than 3,800 people, and more than 90,000 had already been approved for disaster assistance.

FEMA also warned that residents were being targeted by scams. There are reports of criminals impersonating inspectors and immigration officials.

Others were receiving fraudulent calls about flood insurance claiming a premium must be paid or coverage would be lost.

Energy suppliers in southern Texas were forced to shut down refineries and close off pipelines, sending petrol prices higher across the US. Many have restarted operations, but it could take weeks before production is back to normal.

Residents returning to their homes are also facing challenges.

The Environmental Protection Agency is warning residents that floodwater can contain bacteria and other contaminants from overflowing sewers. It said the biggest threat to public health was access to safe drinking water.

One chemical plant in Crosby, near Houston, caught fire on August 31, and more fires are expected in the coming days.

Chemicals stored at the flooded Arkema plant are no longer being refrigerated, making them combustible.

Residents have been evacuated from the plant in a 1.5 mile radius, and smoke was seen rising from the site on August 31.

President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump are expected to return to Texas on September 2.

The president visited Texas earlier in the week but limited his visit to Corpus Christi, which avoided the worst of the flooding, over fears his presence could divert resources from rescue efforts.

Storm Harvey has been downgraded to a tropical depression and is expected to dissipate in Ohio on Saturday evening.

Several inches of rainfall are expected in Tennessee and Kentucky over the next two days, and flood warnings remain in effect in parts of Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, Texas, and Louisiana.

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Hurricane Joaquin has battered parts of the Bahamas with heavy rains and winds after it was reclassified up to the second strongest type of storm.

Sustained winds of up to 130mph were reported in parts of the eastern Bahamas, the US National Hurricane Center said.

The NHC says Hurricane Joaquin could affect the US East Coast by October 4, and said it was now an “extremely dangerous” storm.

Emergency teams said there were no reports of casualties in the Bahamas.

Forecasters in the US and the Bahamas are warning that central islands, many of which are low-lying, could see a storm surge of up to 12ft.

“We do not know the impact of 130mph on those areas,” Bahamas PM Perry Christie said.

Photo AccuWeather

Photo AccuWeather

“We know it’s a horrific kind of experience.”

Images on social media showed water reaching close to the roofs of some homes. The Tribune 242 website said dozens of people were trapped in their homes in the southern Bahamas.

After being classified only as a storm on September 30, Joaquin had become a Category Four hurricane – on a scale of five – by October 1.

The NHC said the storm could strengthen again as it nears the central Bahamas, but it is likely to lose strength as it moves north.

States along the eastern US coast – many of whom have suffered heavy rains in recent days – have warned residents to take precautions.

But the NHC, while warning the path of the hurricane could change, said it was “becoming optimistic that the Carolinas and the mid-Atlantic states will avoid the direct effects from Joaquin”.

Meanwhile, the governors of New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland and North and South Carolina declared states of emergency. One person was killed by flash floods in Spartanburg, South Carolina and schools in Charleston will be closed on October 2, local media reported.

Cuba has also issued warnings for four eastern provinces.

A White House spokesman said the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was following the progress of Hurricane Joaquin and preparing in case it made landfall in the US.

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Preparing for hurricane season means more than just making a disaster kit and reviewing your family‘s disaster plan, although those are critical first steps.

There’s much more you can do to protect your home and your family before a hurricane hits. The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA’s) Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration recommends you take the following additional steps to prepare for hurricane season.

 

FEDERAL INSURANCE AND MITIGATION ADMINISTRATION CHECKLIST

Preparing for hurricane season means more than just making a disaster kit and reviewing your family‘s disaster plan

Preparing for hurricane season means more than just making a disaster kit and reviewing your family‘s disaster plan

 

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) remind American people not to panic when they lose television and radio service for a few minutes today at 2:00 p.m. during a test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS).

Although the public alert mechanism is decades old and often tested and used at the local level, it has never before been tested on a nationwide scale.

This first-ever test will occur at 2:00pm EST on Wednesday, November 9 and will occur simultaneously across the U.S. and its territories, lasting up to three-and-a-half-minutes.

FEMA and FCC remind American people not to panic when they lose television and radio service for a few minutes today at 2 p.m. during a test of the Emergency Alert System

FEMA and FCC remind American people not to panic when they lose television and radio service for a few minutes today at 2 p.m. during a test of the Emergency Alert System

 

The EAS is a national alert and warning system established to enable the President of the United States to address the American public during emergencies.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Weather Service, governors and state and local emergency authorities also use parts of the system to issue more localized emergency alerts.

EAS test will look and sound very similar to the local tests of the Emergency Alert System that occur frequently; the public will hear a message indicating that “This is a test” on broadcast radio and television stations, cable television, satellite radio and television services and wireline video service providers.

The disruption will occur across all states and the territories of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and American Samoa.

FEMA and FCC sent an open letter to all stakeholders on Friday, including governors, federal legislators, broadcasters, news networks and other organisations, asking for their help in educating their respective communities about the event – to curb potential panic about lost communications services.

FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate and FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski wrote: “The various disasters our country has faced this year underscore the need for effective and well-tested emergency alert and warning systems that could be used in a time of real emergency, at a moment’s notice.

“The purpose of the test is to allow FEMA and the FCC to assess how well the Emergency Alert System would perform its primary function: alerting the public about a national emergency.”

The test is conducted to help identify any positive changes that could be made as FEMA, the FCC and other partners continue working to build “a modernized and fully accessible Emergency Alert System”, according to a press release issued by the organizations.

FCC and FEMA are also asking stakeholders to make sure their communities are aware of key facts about the test, including that the test .

The letter continued: “As with all of our work, we know that the support of our state, local, tribal and territorial partners, along with the private sector, our faith-based and disability communities, and other key stakeholders, will be vital to effectively raising the public’s awareness of the test and minimizing undue public concern.

“We greatly appreciate your continued partnership as we prepare for this unique event and important public service.”

EAS test will not impact landline or mobile phones, power grids, or internet connectivity.

What will happen during the EAS test:

* The test will be approximately 30 seconds long and will look and sound very similar to the frequent local tests of the Emergency Alert System

* It will be transmitted via television and radio stations within the U.S., including Alaska, Hawaii, the territories of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and American Samoa

* An audio message will interrupt television and radio programming indication: ‘This is only a test,’ though text may not indicate this same message on the screen on every television channel

* Organisations that serve people with disabilities or people with limited English proficiency should be aware that they may receive requests for information or assistance from broadcasters or other communications service providers and emergency managers in the days leading up to, during, and after the test

* When the test is over, regular programming will resume

 

Source: The FCC

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