Presidential emergency declared for Puerto Rico
No need to be alarmed because this is not Maria, says power utility chief
SAN JUAN — Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced said Tuesday that she submitted to the federal government, via Public Safety Secretary Elmer Román, an emergency declaration request ahead of Tropical Storm Dorian.
“The documents have already been filled out, they have already been received, so we are waiting to receive the answer as soon as possible,” the governor said in a press conference.
Later Tuesday evening, the White House reportedly declared an emergency and ordered federal assistance.
Vázquez Garced said White House officials had made themselves available, despite President Trump’s misleading remarks on Twitter.
“Puerto Rico has been given around $40 billion. And it is not that they have given us, FEMA is an insurance, people. When you pay for your house, you pay for insurance. So it’s not that FEMA isn’t helping, FEMA is doing its job, number one. Number two, of those $40 billion, around $14 billion have been received,” San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz Soto told reporters in reaction to Trump’s tweet.
Resident commissioner Jenniffer González Colón confirmed that the amount mentioned by the president was incorrect.
“Unfortunately, I did see it [the tweet]. I sometimes get surprised because nobody here calls a hurricane, nobody calls for storms to come. We live in the Caribbean and therefore, storms and hurricanes will pass through here, as the tsunamis pass through the Pacific,” González Colón replied to the media.
“About the $92 billion, hopefully its $92 billion, but the reality today is that approved by Congress and signed by the president of the United States, we have an allocation of $42.5 billion, of which $13 billion has arrived on the island, [$]26 [billion] are obligated; so, we have not received that, which will be the number in 10 years,” she added.
“I have to thank Admiral William Brown, who is the Homeland Security adviser to the president of the United States, who called us this morning and made himself available to help us in any emergency situation. I know that there were some expressions by the president, obviously given the concern of the citizens, the truth is that the communication with his advisers has been extraordinary,” the governor said during the press conference earlier.
For his part, the Public Security secretary said that although a response had yet to be received, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will not wait to mobilize resources.
“The governor wrote and requested the emergency declaration request on time. With the statement that has already been received at the White House—and we have been in communication with the White House—and it will be processed as expeditiously as possible. The director of the FEMA region for Puerto Rico is already in Puerto Rico; the federal coordinator, too. There already are 500 employees of different federal agencies in Puerto Rico. All of these agencies are at the Convention Center,” Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González said.
The head of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (Prepa) said the distribution system could suffer with 60 mile-per-hour winds. because it had only been “patched up” in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.
Prepa’s José Ortiz said he spoke with Assistant U.S. Energy Secretary Bruce Walker, who asked how the department could be of help to the island.
“We have people, inventory and help from the U.S.” to secure the system, said Ortiz, adding that “there is no need to be alarmed” because this is not Maria.
The governor’s main concern was for people who still live under tarps to move to shelters.
“Or if you live in a flood-prone place or don’t live under a safe roof, look for family or friends. If not, contact the mayors to find a shelter,” Vázquez said.
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio said earlier Tuesday that Vázquez had yet to request an emergency declaration.
“With Tropical Storm #Dorian expected to affect #PuertoRico we have been in contact with Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced & @RepJenniffer,” Rubio tweeted, referring to Resident Commissioner González.
“The Governor has not yet requested an emergency declaration.
“Should she do so we will work to get @POTUS to issue declaration quickly,” the senator said.
Rubio also spoke about the steps his office was taking as the storm approached the island.
“Our office is in contact with federal, state and local officials. We will continue to monitor the storm and its potential impact on Florida and Puerto Rico,” Rubio said.
—CyberNews and Caribbean Business reporter José Alvarado contributed.