VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY/AP) — Virginia Task Force 2 is sending 16 more members to Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Irma’s devastation.
A 45-member team from the task force had already left for San Juan on Monday, before Irma hit.
The Virginia Beach Fire Department says the task force’s presence in San Juan is closer to what FEMA classifies as a Type 1 deployment, which typically involves a team of about 80 members.
On Thursday afternoon, Irma was north of the Dominican Republic, where authorities reported some flooding and the evacuation of several thousand locals and tourists but no serious damage or casualties. But the first islands hit by the Category 5 hurricane were scenes of terrible destruction.
Four people were confirmed dead and about 50 injured on the French side of St. Martin. The toll could rise because rescue teams had yet to get a complete look at the damage. Three more deaths were reported on the British island of Anguilla, independent Barbuda and the Dutch side of St. Martin.
More than half the island of Puerto Rico was without power, leaving more 900,000 in the dark and nearly 50,000 without water, the U.S. territory’s emergency management agency said in the midst of the storm. Fourteen hospitals were using generators after losing power, and trees and light poles were strewn across roads.
Puerto Rico’s public power company warned before the storm hit that some areas could be left without power from four to six months because its staff has been reduced and its infrastructure weakened by the island’s financial crisis.
Virginia Task Force 2 may be called to help other islands as well as Puerto Rico. Officials say members and K-9s who have deployed are doing well and are in good spirits.
Stay with WAVY.com for continuing coverage of this developing story.