Miami, Sep 3 (EFE).- The United States government will remain engaged as long as circumstances require to ensure a full recovery for areas of Louisiana devastated by Hurricane Ida, President Joe Biden said Friday after surveying some of the damage done by the powerful Category 4 storm.
At the same time, he cited the destruction wrought by Ida as evidence of the threat from climate change and argued that measures included in his $1.2 trillion “Build Back Better” bill would make US infrastructure more resilient.
“There’s nothing political about this,” the Democratic president said of the response to Ida, hailing the presence of Louisiana’s two Republican senators and several GOP congressman among the officials he met with on his arrival.
“It’s just simply about saving lives and getting people back up and running, and we’re in this together,” Biden said.
“And so we’re not going to leave any community behind, rural, city, coastal, and I promise to have your backs until this gets done,” he said.
More than 800,000 residential and business customers in Louisiana remain without electricity amid temperatures above 90 F (30 C) with high humidity, while two-thirds of the gas stations in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, the state capital, have run out of fuel even as people are forced to rely on gas-powered generators.
Ida is blamed for five deaths in Louisiana and Mississippi, while flooding caused by remnants of the storm claimed more than 40 lives in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
“This storm has been incredible, not only here but all over the East Coast,” Biden said.
He stressed the role of climate change in amplifying the destructiveness of extreme weather events.
“Things have changed so drastically in terms of the environment. We’ve already crossed certain thresholds. We can’t build back roads, highways, bridges, anything to what it was before. We gotta build back to what it is now, what’s needed now,” Biden said.
Accompanied by Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) head Deanne Criswell and other officials, the president spent time in La Place before going on an aerial tour of Lafitte, Grand Isle, Port Fourchon and Lafourche Parish.
Expressing sympathy for residents’ “frustration” over the lack of power, Biden said that his administration was in constant contact with energy provides to expedite the restoration of electricity.
And he took the opportunity to note that burying electric lines underground – one of the programs included in Build Back Better – would make the power grid more robust and lessen the expense of repairs.
To address the gasoline shortage, Biden said that he was ordering the release of 1.5 million barrels of oil from the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve to refineries.
“I know you’re hurting,” he told residents in La Place. “I want you to know we’re going to be here for you.” EFE