1:47 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, folks. With the devastation caused by Hurricane Ian in Florida and the storm just hours away from hitting South Carolina — I know some parts are already hit — I want to update you on what we’ve done since I last spoke to you on this 24 hours ago.
I’ve directed that every possible action be taken to save lives and get help to survivors, because every single minute counts.
It’s not just a crisis for Florida. This is an American crisis. We’re all in this together.
And I’ve spoken to Governor DeSantis on multiple occasions, as well this morning, as well as mayors and county officials — both Republican and Democrat — from the places most affected. And I spoke with Governor McMaster of South Carolina this morning as well.
Last night, I received a request for an emergency declaration from Governor McMaster, which I approved right away, just as I did for Florida. This allows for immediate federal funding for the state to shelter people and provide other essential support.
By approving it early, ahead of the storm’s landfall in South Carolina, we can get supplies in and provide shelter if necessary.
My message to the people of South Carolina is simple: Please listen to all the warnings and directions from local officials and follow their instructions.
And as you all know, the situation in Florida is far more devastating. We’re just beginning to see the scale of that destruction. It’s likely to rank among the worst of the nation’s — the worst in the nation’s history. You have all seen the tel- — seen it on television. Homes and property wiped out. It’s going to take months, years to rebuild.
And our hearts go out to all those folks whose lives have been absolutely devastated by this storm. America’s heart is literally breaking, just watching people — watching it on television.
I just want the people of Florida to know we see what you’re going through, and we’re with you. We’re going to do everything we can for you.
I say to the rest of Americans: Just imagine yourself in that situation. Water rising. Walls collapsing. Streets turned literally into rivers. Charter boats on top of automobiles. Watching the home and the community you worked so — you used to work so hard to establish literally washed away.
And folks across the country are now waiting to hear from parents and grandparents who live in Florida, just hoping and praying they’re okay.
At my direction, we pre- — we pre-deployed the largest team of search and rescue experts in recent history, because so many of the rescuers need to take place now — need to be there in place now, in the water now. And the United States Coast Guard has been deployed as well — 6 fixed-wing aircraft, 18 rescue boats and crews, 16 rescue helicopters, which were in the air all day yesterday and are at it again today.
Working with the Defense Department, the National Guard, state and local first responders, they’ve rescued 117 people on the southwest Florida coast in Fort Myers and Naples so far.
Just this morning, I spoke personally with the Lieutenant Commander of the Coast Guard, Christopher Hooper, who is leading the search and rescue operation there. He emphasized this is one fight, everyone working together — Coast Guard, Defense Department, Customs and Border Patrol, Florida Fish and Wildlife, local officials.
They’re doing everything they can to rescue people. He said, “Mr. President, we will not rest at night until we know they’re safe and sound.”
He talked about how they rescued a 94-year-old woman who had the courage to be hoisted up into a helicopter, the wind blowing, and — as well as a one-month-old baby. Not at the same time, but a one-month-old baby as well. And so much in between.
He also spoke to Aviation Survival T- — I also spoke to Aviation Survival — Second Class — Technician Second Class Zach Loesch, who described how difficult the decision is for people to leave everything and come to safety.
I told him how proud of him I was and thanked him for all the work he and his Coasties are doing to save lives.
I’m grateful for the brave women and men — federal, state, and local folks working so hard. They’re all working as one team. I hear that from the governor as well as from the federal folks.
In the past 24 hours, my administration has approved four more counties in Florida for individual disaster assistance, in addition to the nine counties we had announced yesterday.
What that means is: The federal government will cover — is covering every cost — 100 percent of the cost to clear the massive debris left in the wake of the hurricane in these counties. And it all needs to be cleared out for communities to begin the hard work of trying to get back on their feet.
That declaration also means we will cover all the extra costs for emergency personnel who are saving lives and providing for public safety.
Because phonelines and Internet might go out, FEMA is registering people directly — directly to be able to get help. They’re setting up disaster recovery centers in — in shelters all across the state so we can get survivors registered for the help they need as quickly as they can possibly get it. And if you can’t get to a center, we’re sending out mobile teams into communities to meet people where they are.
Getting the power back on is also critical. I want to recognize — and this is, I think, impressive — 44,000 utility workers and restoration personnel from 33 states and the District of Columbia who are working around the clock to help get power back on for millions — millions of Floridians who have lost it.
I’ve ordered more than 400 personnel from the Army Corps of Engineers to Florida with more than 250 generators to enable power supplies for key locations like hospitals and shelters.
And last night, my Homeland Security Advisor met with the electric sector leaders to ensure that they’re coordinating with owners and operators of the grid so nothing will stand in the way of getting the power back on.
Yesterday, I was briefed by the leaders of FEMA, the Coast Guard, the Army Corps of Engineers, and other organizations that are at the tip of the spear right now.
I directed them to provide me with information on where housing and health facilities, and power and cell service, and other critical infrastructure has been most affected so we can prioritize and focus our efforts and expand them where the help is needed the most.
In addition to what we’re doing in — for Florida and South Carolina, we remain focused on recovery eccor- — efforts in Puerto Rico as well. And I will say it as long as — we’re going to stay with and stay at it as long it takes.
I’ve spent a lot of time with people in the aftermath of disasters. I have immense gratitude for the first responders and the emergency crews who always show up no matter what.
At times like these, Americans come together. They put aside politics, they put aside division, and we come together to help each other. Because we know, if it were us who just lost our homes or a loved one, we’d hope people would show up to help us as well.
Red Cro- — Red Cross volunteers — volunteers as far away as Oregon and the Dakotas, and utility workers from Minnesota and Nebraska and Vermont have traveled to Florida in the past few days to help do whatever they can.
That’s America. That’s who we are. We’re going to keep doing everything we can, and we’ll do it as the United States of America.
So, God bless all of you who are hurting. May God protect the troops and all those brave souls risking their lives, and fellow Americans.
I want to say one more thing. I want to also speak to Mr. Putin’s remarks this morning. You know, America and its allies are not going — let me emphasize this — are not going to be intimidated. Are not going to be intimidated by Putin and his reckless words and threats. He’s not going to scare us, and he doesn’t — or intimidate us.
Putin’s actions are a sign he’s struggling. A sham referenda he carried out. And the — this routine he put on —
(Addresses member of the press as they look at teleprompter.) Don’t worry, it’s not on there, if you’re looking, okay?
The — he — the sham routine that he put on this morning that is showing the unity and — you know, has people holding hands together.
Well, the United States is never going to recognize this. And quite frankly, the world is not going to recognize it either.
He can’t seize his neighbor’s territory and get away with it. It’s as simple as that.
And we’re going to stay the course. We’re going to continue to provide military equipment so that Ukraine can defend itself and its territory and its freedom, including additional resources that the Congress is going to give me today of 13 billion more dollars to help the Ukrainians defend themselves and fight back.
And we’re fully prepared to defend — I’m going to say this again — America is fully depa- — prepared with our NATO Allies to defend every single inch of NATO territory — every single inch. So, Mr. Putin, don’t misunderstand what I’m saying: every inch.
And I have to be — I’ve been in close touch with — with our allies. We’re announcing new sanctions today as well that — including new authorities to sanction anyone who provides political or economic support to Russia’s fa- — fraudulent territorial claims.
And I’ve been in close touch with our NATO Allies who are united in our resolve to take on his aggression.
So, I thank you all very much.
You also asked me earlier about the pipeline. And let me say this: It was a deliberate act of sabotage, and now the Russians are pumping out disinformation and lies.
And we’re going to work with our allies to get to the bottom of exactly what — precisely what happened. And at my direction, I’ve already begun to help our allies enhance the protection of this critical infrastructure.
And at the appropriate moment when things calm down, we’re going to be sending divers down to find out exactly what happened. We don’t know that yet exactly, but we’re not — just don’t listen to what Putin is saying. What he’s saying, we know is not true.
Thank you all so very much.
1:58 P.M. EDT