U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees aiding Vieques Island

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees are providing critical support to the Vieques Island community in Puerto Rico following the impact of Hurricane Maria. Employees of the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge were the only federal presence on the island before the hurricane made landfall on September 20.
Hurricane Maria knocked out all power and cell phone communication on Vieques Island. The loss of the island cell phone network left Vieques Mayor Víctor Emeric unable to communicate with Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló. The Vieques NWR immediately began working with the mayor by providing satellite phones for communication and coordination of emergency response and resupply efforts. All of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service heavy equipment on Vieques is being utilized to assist the community with disaster response. The refuge has crossed trained personnel to operate equipment and chainsaws and is working with the Vieques Fire Department and volunteers to clear roads. FWS satellite phones are being used by the members of the community to communicate off island. Refuge employees will continue to support Vieques throughout the disaster response and recovery process.
Vieques Island is a municipality of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico located approximately 7 miles east of the main island. With a population of over 9,000, Vieques is approximately 22 miles long and 4 miles wide at its broadest point. The Vieques NWR was established on May 1, 2001 and manages 17,771 acres on the island.
The Department of the Interior currently has 156 employees assigned to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) disaster response in the Caribbean. An additional 46 DOI employees have been deployed to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to support the 240 DOI employees currently living and working on the islands. The DOI Office of Emergency Management is working with FEMA to coordinate emergency actions in support of island communities impacted by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.