Puerto Rico will be without power for a long time: FEMA director

Hurricane Maria is battering Puerto Rico as the life-threatening category 4 storm with winds reaching 160 MPH rips through the island. Thousands of people are in shelters with flash warnings in effect, leaving the entire island without power.

The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Brock Long, on Wednesday said the agency is expecting a “devastating impact” from St. Croix to Puerto Rico.

“Both territories are basically without power and will be so for a very long time. They both have very fragile power systems. We don’t have a good handle on the search and rescue at this point from the standpoint of fatality and people trapped,” Long told FOX Business’ Melissa Francis of ‘After the Bell’.

FEMA has repositioned search, rescue and other personnel in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma to focus on Maria, leaving about 3,200 staff members on the island territories.

The agency’s first focus is to restore emergency power to critical facilities such as hospitals, which can become challenging when roadways are blocked with debris preventing utilities vehicles access for repairs.

According to Brock, restoring power to U.S. territories is a logistical challenge because the resources needed are not typically stored on the islands and they have to come from the continental United States.

“We have ships ready to go I believe out of Jacksonville with power poles and so over the next few days the ships will be making their way as the ports become open and cruise come on from the continental U.S. as well to be able to assess what needs to be done to bring the grid back up,” he said.

FEMA continues its relief efforts in Texas helping to formulate the roads and pathway to recovery after Hurricane Harvey plummeted the Houston area.

“The biggest challenge is going to be the housing mission and how we can expedite this mission to get people back into their homes and better situations than where they are,” the FEMA director said.