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ReliefWeb Source: Federal Emergency Management Agency
Date: 23 Sept 1998

FEMA operates In both response and recovery modes after hurricane Georges hits Puerto Rico and heads toward Florida

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is operating in both response and recovery mode today following Hurricane Georges' strike on Puerto Rico earlier in the week and its anticipated landfall in Florida by Friday.

On Puerto Rico, damage assessments continue. All 78 municipios report damage to homes, with wooden structures hardest hit. About 1 million customers remain without power and 700,000 are without water. Some municipalities are without phone service. Clearing debris from roads is underway and commercial flights were resumed today. Damage in the U.S. Virgin Islands was minimal.

Meanwhile, Florida's governor has declared a state of emergency. Depending on the track of the storm, as many as 1.8 million residents may need to be evacuated. Some evacuation orders have already been issued. The Regional Operations Center for FEMA Region IV, which is based in Atlanta, is on 24-hour operations. Emergency response team members will report to the Florida State Emergency Operation Center tomorrow.

FEMA also continues to monitor Tropical Storm Ivan, which appears not to be a threat to the U.S., and Tropical Storm Jeanne, which is moving west-northwest and is forecast to intensify to a Category II in the next 24 hours.

Highlights of the federal response:

* FEMA officials are working closely with the Government of Puerto Rico to identify needs and marshall resources. Priority needs include water and electricity restoration, debris removal and ensuring public safety. FEMA also is marshalling 2,000 rolls of heavy tarpaulin that can be used to provide temporary roofing on homes that lost their roofs to the high winds of Hurricane Georges.

* A 32-person Prime Power Team - experts in the restoration of electrical power following disaster caused interruptions - have arrived on the island and are working with the Puerto Rico power officials. FEMA has sent a 50-generator power pack to the island for use by government agencies and non-profits providing critical services.

* The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is purchasing 1 million pounds of ice and 1 million gallons of water for distribution in Puerto Rico, and providing emergency debris clearance, removal and disposal.

* The American Red Cross is developing a contingency plan for Florida should Hurricane Georges make landfall there. Three Watch Teams have been established by the local Red Cross chapters in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. More than 200 Red Cross mass care workers have assembled or are in transit to Atlanta to deploy, as required, to either Puerto Rico or Florida. One shelter is operating in St. Croix, with 26 residents. In Puerto Rico, 416 government-run shelters are housing about 28,000 people.

* FEMA disaster medical teams, communication experts, and search and rescue teams are prepared for deployment to Florida as required.

* One U.S. Forest Service Incident Management Team was deployed to Puerto Rico to manage mobilization centers for the General Services Administration. Two other teams are on standby for use in Florida, if necessary.

* U.S. Deputy Marshalls are in the U.S. Virgin Islands to provide law enforcement assistance, at the request of the Territorial Governor.

* The Environmental Protection Agency will begin conducting site assessments in Puerto Rico on September 24.

* The U.S. Coast Guard is making preparations for the possibility of a hurricane landfall on Florida, and the Key Naval Air Station is closed. The U.S. Navy has issued mandatory evacuation orders for its 4,000 personnel in the Keys.

* Project Impact post-disaster assessment teams are preparing to be deployed to Puerto Rico to assess the aftermath of Hurricane Georges. Culebra, Puerto Rico, is a Project Impact community and has been working to implement hurricane mitigation measures. FEMA has provided specialized technical assistance to Culebra residents for retrofitting homes and Culebra has specialized inspectors to ensure enforcement in building codes. The U.S. Virgin Islands have also undergone mitigation measures, including adopting new building codes. Deerfield Beach, Florida, another Project Impact community, could be impacted when Hurricane Georges make landfall on mainland U.S. Deerfield Beach has been working hard in the past year to implement disaster prevention measures and to raise public awareness.

* FEMA has posted radio public service announcements in both Spanish and English on subjects related to preparing for and recovering from hurricanes. The announcements can be obtained through the FEMA Radio Network, at 1-800-323-5248.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
Office of Emergency Information & Media Affairs --- Washington, D.C.

Information Available 24 hours a day . . .
... on the World Wide Web: http://www.fema.gov
... FEMA is also co-sponsor of Storm98: http://www.storm98.com
... via fax-on-demand: phone in the U.S.A. (202) 646-FEMA (646-3362)
... via digital audio for broadcasters & print: contact eipa@fema.gov
and listen to the FEMA Radio Network on the FEMA Website using RealAudio



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Latest Emergency Updates: Caribbean: Hurricane Georges - Sep 1998
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