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Speaking from FEMA Headquarters in Washington on Thursday afternoon, President Biden said Hurricane Ian could be “the deadliest hurricane in Florida’s history.”
“The numbers are still unclear, but we’re hearing early reports of what may be substantial loss of life,” he explained.
The president said the U.S. Coast Guard had deployed 16 rescue helicopters, six fixed-wing aircraft and 18 rescue boats to respond to hard-hit areas.
“And, in the face of serious danger, search and rescue operations got underway before dawn this morning for people stranded and who are in desperate shape,” he told reporters.
Biden said more would be learned in the coming hours but that the administration knows “many families are hurting.”
“We’re going to pull together as one team, as one America,” he assured, adding that the federal government would cover the majority of the cost of rebuilding.
Biden approved a major disaster declaration in Florida earlier in the day.
However, the danger from Ian was not over. The tropical storm was expected to once again make landfall as a Category 1 hurricane on the South Carolina coast later on Thursday.
“I also want to say again, to everyone in Ian’s path: the danger is real, to state the obvious,” the president urged.
Turning his attention to oil and gas executives, Biden said there would be “no excuse” for raising prices at the pump.
“Do not, do not, do not use this storm as an excuse to raise gasoline prices or gouge the American public,” he insisted. “America is watching and the industry should do the right thing.”
Biden said that he would go to Florida — and meet with Gov. Ron DeSantis — and Puerto Rico whenever weather conditions allow.
To Puerto Ricans, he added: “We’re not gone away.”