FEMA Planning Airlifts From Puerto Rico To Florida

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TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami) — FEMA is working on arrangements to help transport survivors of Hurricane Maria from storm-ravaged Puerto Rico to the U.S. mainland.

Many survivors who wish to temporarily relocate will likely go to New York or Florida, both of which have large Puerto Rican populations.

The operation, which officials call an “air bridge,” could take some time to set up because FEMA hasn’t flown such a large number of people out of a disaster zone before.

“We have about 4,000, 5,000 people coming from Puerto Rico to Florida a day,” said Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL). “We have two relief centers right now, one at the Orlando Airport, one at the Miami Airport.”

To help handle the assistance to some of the Americans who are suffering, the governor said Friday he instructed Florida Division of Emergency Management in Tallahassee to activate the state’s emergency operations center to level two.

While that designation will help with the massive relocation, organizations like the Hispanic Outreach Center in Clearwater, FL are already feeling like they’re in over their heads.

“We’re seeing people coming here for family. We’re seeing people coming here with nothing, also, who have no connection here. And those people are the hardest to serve,” said the center’s Sandra Lythe.

A multi-agency clinic the center holds every Thursday is a starting point for many displaced Puerto Ricans who know very little about their temporary home away from home. But resources are still limited.

“The shelters are already full with families from Pinellas,” said Lythe. “And so new arrivals, you know, go on a waiting list. So if you arrive here with really nothing, it’s gonna take a while to get established.”

Gov. Scott said his state will do what it has to do to make their lives whole again.

“They’re American citizens,” the governor said. “A lot of times they’re brothers and sisters and relatives, and we’re a state that takes care of people and I want to make sure we’re doing the right thing for everybody that’s coming here from Puerto Rico.”

Puerto Rico is still working to fix its crippled electrical grid. Authorities said, as of Friday, power generation had been restored to 38 percent across the island.

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