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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Biden paints bleak picture in Ian’s aftermath

James Grey looks for his house boat along the Caloosahatchee River in downtown Fort Myers, Fla. on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022.

By Michael D. Shear

President Joe Biden painted a bleak and uncertain picture of the devastation caused by Hurricane Ian, saying Thursday that early reports indicate “what may be substantial loss of life” in Florida.

Speaking at the headquarters of the Federal Emergency Management Agency after a briefing on the hurricane, Biden said that the “numbers are still unclear” when it comes to the number of people who might have been killed by the storm. He said federal agencies are helping state and local officials assess damage and rescue stranded people.

“At times like this, America comes together,” Biden told reporters after the briefing. “We’re going to pull together as one team, as one America.”

Biden said that he plans to visit Florida to thank emergency workers and check in on the progress of rebuilding. But he said he would wait until his trip would not interrupt rescue and recovery efforts.

The president described a large federal response to the hurricane and said that his designation of Florida as a major disaster area would allow residents of affected areas to request up to $37,900 toward home repairs and another $37,900 for loss of items such as cars, wedding rings or other personal property.

Asked about his often frosty relationship with Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, a Republican who is considered a likely candidate for president in 2024, Biden said the question was irrelevant.

“He complimented me. He thanked me for the immediate response we had,” Biden said of the governor, and said the two of them have spoken several times over the past few days. He added that “this is not about anything having to do with our disagreements politically. This is about saving people’s lives, homes and businesses.”

Biden said that the federal government would help to build Florida back, “however long it takes. We’re going to be there. That’s my commitment to you.”

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