Defense Department Assists in Puerto Rico Hurricane Aftermath

Source: DoD (

Hurricane Fiona made landfall in Puerto Rico Sept. 18, knocking out power to the island and causing widespread devastation.

Southern and eastern Puerto Rico may experience catastrophic and life-threatening major river flooding, as well as mudslides, due to the heavy rainfall from Hurricane Fiona, according to a National Weather Service report today.

President Joe Biden directed the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate all disaster relief efforts, according to a White House statement Sept. 18.

The governor of Puerto Rico has activated more than 450 members of the Puerto Rico National Guard to assist, according to Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, who held a press conference today.

Also, the Virgin Islands National Guard has activated personnel to monitor the situation as part of their joint operations center team, Ryder said.

Before the storm hit the Puerto Rico National Guard prepositioned soldiers and heavy equipment, including vehicles with high ground clearance, at 10 strategic points around the island to allow it to quickly respond to emergencies such as rescuing stranded or trapped people and clearing roads, he said.

Yesterday, Puerto Rico National Guard’s 65th Infantry Regiment rescued 21 elderly and bedridden people from their care facility, as landslides threaten the home’s structure and residents’ safety, he said.

Also yesterday, Puerto Rico National Guard’s 296 Infantry Regiment in Mayaguez rescued 59 people and 13 pets from a flooded community, while Guard members with the 125th Military Police Battalion rescued a man in Ponce who got caught in a flash flood, he said.

Guard personnel also rescued a number of people in other municipalities, he said.

Currently, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is preparing generators for emergency power and the Civil Air Patrol has been providing post-hurricane landfall imagery support and small unmanned aerial system support to FEMA’s urban search and rescue teams, he said.

The Defense Department continues to stay in close contact with FEMA, the National Guard Bureau and U.S. Northern Command as response and recovery efforts unfold, Ryder said.