The Roosevelt Room
1:47 PM EDT
PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, people. 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 affected — I want to update you on what we’ve done since I last talked to you about 24 hours ago.
I ordered that all possible actions be taken to save lives and provide assistance to the survivors, because every minute counts.
It’s not just a crisis for Florida. This is America’s crisis. We are all in this together.
I have spoken with Governor DeSantis on multiple occasions, as I have this morning, as well as with mayors and county officials – both Republican and Democrat – from the places most affected. And I spoke with Governor McMaster of South Carolina this morning.
Last night I received a request for a state of emergency from Governor McMaster, which I immediately approved, just as I did for Florida. This allows for immediate federal funding for the state to shelter people and provide other essential support.
If we approve it early, before the storm makes landfall in South Carolina, we can get supplies and provide shelter if needed.
My message to the citizens of South Carolina is simple: Please listen to all warnings and instructions from local officials and follow their instructions.
And as you all know, the situation in Florida is far more devastating. We are only beginning to see the scale of that destruction. They will probably rank among the worst nations – the worst in the nation’s history. You’ve all seen the tel- — you’ve seen it on television. Houses and property wiped out. It will take months, years to rebuild.
And our hearts go out to all those people whose lives were absolutely destroyed by this storm. America’s heart is literally breaking, I’m just watching people – I’m watching it on television.
I just want the people of Florida to know that we see what you are going through, and we are with you. We will do everything we can for you.
I say to the rest of America: Imagine yourself in that situation. The water is rising. The walls are coming down. The streets literally turned into rivers. Boats for rent on cars. Seeing the home and community you worked so hard in—once you worked so hard to establish—literally washed away.
And people across the country are now waiting to hear from the parents and grandparents living in Florida, just hoping and praying they’re okay.
At my direction, we’ve pre-deployed the largest team of search and rescue experts in recent history because so many rescuers need to be deployed now – need to be there on site now, in the water now. And the United States Coast Guard has been deployed — 6 fixed-wing aircraft, 18 rescue boats and crews, 16 rescue helicopters, which were in the air all day yesterday and are in the air again today.
In cooperation with the Department of Defense, the National Guard, state and local emergency services, they have so far rescued 117 people on the southwest coast of Florida in Fort Myers and Naples.
Just this morning I spoke personally with Coast Guard Lt. Christopher Hooper, who is leading the search and rescue operation there. He emphasized that this is one fight, everyone is working together — the Coast Guard, the Department of Defense, Customs and Border Patrol, Florida Fish and Wildlife, local officials.
They do everything they can to save people. He said: “Mr. President, we will not rest at night until we know they are safe and sound.”
He talked about how they saved a 94-year-old woman who had the courage to be lifted into a helicopter, the wind was blowing and — as well as a one-month-old baby. Not at the same time, but also a month old baby. And so much in between.
He also spoke with Aviation Survival T- — I also spoke with 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 I was of him and thanked him for all the work he and his Coasties do to save lives.
I am grateful for the brave women and men – federal, state and local – who work so hard. Everyone works as a team. I hear that from the governor as well as the federal people.
In the past 24 hours, my administration has approved four more Florida counties for individual disaster relief, in addition to the nine counties we announced yesterday.
That means: the federal government will cover — cover all costs — 100 percent of the cost of cleaning up the massive debris left behind by the hurricane in these counties. And all of that needs to be cleared before communities can begin the hard work of trying to get back on their feet.
That statement also means we will cover any additional costs for emergency personnel who save lives and ensure public safety.
Because phone lines and the Internet could go down, FEMA is registering people directly – directly so they can get help. They’re setting up disaster recovery centers in–in shelters across the state so we can register survivors for the help they need as soon as possible. And if you can’t get to the center, we send mobile teams into communities to meet people where they are.
Power recovery is also critical. I want to recognize — and this, I think, is impressive — the 44,000 utility and restoration workers from 33 states and the District of Columbia who are working around the clock to help re-engage the millions — the millions of Floridians who have lost it.
I ordered more than 400 people from the Army Corps of Engineers in Florida with more than 250 generators to provide power to key locations such as hospitals and shelters.
And last night, my homeland security adviser met with power industry leaders to make sure they’re coordinating with grid owners and operators so nothing stands in the way of getting the power back on.
I was briefed yesterday by the leaders of FEMA, the Coast Guard, the Army Corps of Engineers and other organizations that are currently on the cutting edge.
I directed them to provide me with information on where housing and health facilities, as well as power and mobile phone services and other critical infrastructure are most affected so that we can prioritize and focus our efforts and extend them where help is most needed.
In addition to what we’re doing in — for Florida and South Carolina, we’re still focused on excor- — efforts in Puerto Rico. And I will say that as long as – we will stay with and stay on it for as long as it takes.
I’ve spent a lot of time with people after disasters. I am extremely grateful to the first responders and emergency crews who always show up no matter what.
At times like these, Americans come together. They put politics aside, they put division aside, and we come together to help each other. Because we know, if we were the ones who had just lost our homes or a loved one, we would hope that people would show up to help us.
Red Cross volunteers from as far away as Oregon and the Dakotas, and utility workers from Minnesota, Nebraska and Vermont have traveled to Florida in the last few days to help do what they can.
It’s America. That we are. We will continue to do everything we can and we will 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 who risk their lives and fellow Americans.
I want to say one more thing. I also want to talk about Mr. Putin’s statements this morning. You know, America and its allies will not – let me emphasize this – will not be intimidated. They will not be afraid of Putin and his reckless words and threats. He won’t scare us, and he won’t — nor intimidate us.
Putin’s actions are a sign that he is fighting. The fake referendum he conducted. And – this routine he set up –
(He addresses reporters as they look at the teleprompter.) Don’t worry, it’s not there if you’re looking, okay?
— he — the fake routine he put up this morning that shows unity and — you know, he’s got people holding hands.
Well, the United States will never admit it. And frankly, the world won’t recognize it either.
He cannot seize his neighbor’s territory and get away with it. It’s that simple.
And we will stay the course. We will continue to provide military equipment so that Ukraine can defend itself and its territory and its freedom, including the additional resources Congress will give me today of an additional $13 billion to help Ukrainians defend themselves and fight back.
And we are fully prepared to defend — I will repeat this — America is fully depa- — ready with our NATO allies to defend every inch of NATO territory — every inch. So, Mr. Putin, don’t misunderstand what I’m saying: every centimeter.
And I have to be — I’ve been in close contact with — with our allies. And today we are announcing new sanctions that — including new authorities to sanction anyone who provides political or economic support to Russia’s false territorial claims.
And I have been in close contact with our NATO allies who are united in our determination to take on his aggression.
So, I thank you all very much.
You also asked me about the pipeline earlier. And let me say this: it was a deliberate act of sabotage, and now the Russians are pumping out disinformation and lies.
And we will work with our allies to get to the bottom of what exactly – exactly happened. And at my behest, I have already begun helping our allies improve the protection of this critical infrastructure.
And at the appropriate time when things calm down, we’ll send divers to find out exactly what happened. We don’t know exactly yet, but we’re not — just don’t listen to what Putin says. We know that what he is saying is not true.
Thank you all very much.
1:58 PM EDT