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Biden went to Puerto Rico to see what the island needed after Hurricane Fiona

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

President Biden stopped in Puerto Rico yesterday in the aftermath of a hurricane. NPR's Adrian Florido is still there and has an update on the recovery. Good morning.

ADRIAN FLORIDO, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: How's it coming?

FLORIDO: Well, I'll start with the islandwide power outage, which resulted from Hurricane Fiona a couple of weeks ago. A lot of the island now does have electricity. The government and the power companies say they're working to restore power to the last 7 to 10% of customers. The government is also working on wrapping up an initial assessment of the damage, which is expected in the next few days - the number of damaged roofs, flooded homes, washed-out roads and bridges, as well as other infrastructure that's going to need long-term repairs.

And meanwhile, in many communities in the countryside and in parts of some cities, including Ponce, where the president spoke yesterday, people are still in the dark, though. A lot of people don't have running water still, and a lot of older people are having to live through stifling heat without fans or electricity.

INSKEEP: I'm glad to hear about this, not happy to hear the news but glad to be informed, given that there's been Hurricane Ian and all these other events that could just wash this from our attention.

FLORIDO: Yeah.

INSKEEP: So it's good that you're there. But how satisfied are Puerto Ricans with the help they're getting so far?

FLORIDO: It's a mixed bag. Governor Pierluisi - Pedro Pierluisi - seems, you know, grateful for much of what the federal government has done so far. And he expressed that sentiment yesterday when President Biden arrived on the island. But he also made several requests of the president. He asked President Biden to authorize an additional six months during which the federal government will cover the cost of a lot of the emergency recovery work happening here. He also asked FEMA to open up its emergency supply warehouses to local officials because a lot of supplies are still being delivered to communities that don't have power or water.

You know, the governor also asked the federal government to speed up the completion of flood control projects, projects that would help prevent the kind of flooding that devastated so many communities during this hurricane.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PEDRO PIERLUISI: In short, my asks to you, Mr. President, are straightforward. We want to be treated in the same way as our fellow Americans in the States in times of need.

FLORIDO: So the governor yesterday was clearly taking the opportunity to apply some pressure on President Biden while the world was watching and listening.

INSKEEP: I'm thinking of that phrase you used, speed up. Why do Puerto Ricans feel that time is of the essence here?

FLORIDO: I mean, they need repairs to the infrastructure to happen quickly. One of the vital lessons that officials on the island and residents of Puerto Rico have learned is that you've got to act fast after these disasters to repair infrastructure. The infrastructure from Hurricane Maria's damage in 2017, the repairs to that infrastructure has just - have just inched along, which is a big part of why Puerto Rico was so vulnerable when Fiona came along last month. And so if there's one thing people want, it's for recovery to happen quickly.

INSKEEP: What do you hear when you're away from the officials and the press conferences and just talking to people?

FLORIDO: As is often the case, you know, people have mixed opinions about the president's visit and the recovery. Some people are pleased, other people not so impressed. I spoke after the president spoke yesterday with Xiomara Marquez, who was loading her car up with trays of food to deliver to communities that still lack power and running water, and she told me she was upset with the president.

XIOMARA MARQUEZ: (Speaking Spanish).

FLORIDO: She said the president was only here for a couple of hours. He didn't visit any communities that were actually damaged, that she wished he had done that so he would have a better sense of how Puerto Ricans are faring after the storm.

INSKEEP: Adrian, thanks so much.

FLORIDO: Thanks, Steve.

INSKEEP: NPR's Adrian Florido is in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Adrian Florido
Adrian Florido is a national correspondent for NPR covering race and identity in America.

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