FEMA to airlift Maria victims from Puerto Rico to U.S. mainland

By Danielle Haynes  |  Updated Nov. 9, 2017 at 3:08 PM
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Nov. 9 (UPI) -- Seven weeks after Hurricane Maria left the entire island of Puerto Rico in the dark and thousands of homes damaged, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said Thursday it's offering to transport victims still in shelters to the United States mainland.

The plan to airlift as many as 3,000 people came upon a request from Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello, an agency spokesperson said in a statement to UPI.

"FEMA will be providing transportation assistance to select locations in the continental United States. Priority of transportation will be available to those approximately 3,000 survivors who are still residing in shelters," the statement said.

The airlifts will occur through FEMA's Transitional Shelter Assistance program, which offers short-term lodging for disaster victims unable to return home for an extended amount of time. FEMA may also cover the cost of lodging for the evacuees.

The program is available for five to 14 days and may be extended, if needed.

FEMA said it is working to establish host-state agreements with Florida and New York.

Natalie Jeresko, executive director of Puerto Rico's federal oversight board, told the House Natural Resources committee Tuesday that the island will need between $13 billion and $21 billion over the next two years to keep the basic functions of government operating.

She said about 60 percent of Puerto Rico was still without power, tens of thousands of homes don't have roofs and about 100,000 residents have already left the island.

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