Obama signs disaster declaration for Puerto Rico in wake of Hurricane Irene

August 28th, 2011 - 3:00 pm ICT by BNO News  

SAN JUAN (BNO NEWS) — U.S. President Barack Obama on Saturday signed a disaster declaration for the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Irene tore through the islands, the White House said.

Irene made landfall in Puerto Rico on early Monday morning when it strengthened into a category one hurricane, uprooting scores of trees and leaving more than 1.5 million people without power. Widespread damage was reported, but there were no casualties.

On Saturday evening, the White House said Obama declared a major disaster exists in Puerto Rico and ordered federal aid to supplement local recovery efforts in the area struck by Irene. His action makes federal funding available to affected individuals in the municipalities of Caguas, Canóvanas, Carolina, Cayey, Loíza, Luquillo, and San Juan.

Federal funding also is available to commonwealth and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work and the repair or replacement of facilities damaged by Hurricane Irene in the municipalities of Aguas Buenas, Carolina, Cayey, Ceiba, Comerío, Juncos, Las Marías, Luquillo, Morovis, Naguabo, Orocovis, Utuado, Vega Baja, and Villalba.

Federal funding is now also available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures for the entire commonwealth.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said Justo Hernández has been named as the Federal Coordinating Officer for federal recovery operations in Puerto Rico. Hernández said that damage surveys are still continuing, and additional municipalities may be designated for assistance after the assessments are fully completed.

Irene later rampaged through the Bahamas and made landfall in North Carolina on early Saturday morning, after which it is continuing on a path along the U.S. East Coast. At least nine people have been killed on the U.S. mainland as of early Sunday morning.

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