The Pentagon is now rushing more military disaster relief aid to the stricken areas of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands as the awful plight of the people there reaches into the second week after Hurricane Maria.
The utter devastation and scale of the disaster have overmatched the local authorities ability to respond to the many citizens who have no food, water or electricity. The Navy has deployed three ships to the region but has been unable to use more since the port facilities were too badly damaged any larger vessels.
The more robust approach includes the deployment of the USNS Comfort, a hospital ship that has responded to other natural disasters. The Pentagon also has assigned an Army general as point person for the humanitarian crisis: Brig. Gen. Richard Kim, the deputy commanding general of U.S. Army North. He will coordinate operations and assess what other resources are needed, defense officials said.
“Obviously, what we asked for and what they sent was not enough for a storm that impacted every town in Puerto Rico from north to south and east to west,” Ramon Rosario, spokesman for Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, said Wednesday in the San Juan convention center, the headquarters for the intergovernmental recovery effort.
Puerto Rico’s governor has personally appealed to President Trump for more disaster aid and the military is stepping to the forefront. There are currently 10 ships en route with disaster relief. One ship has 262,000 barrels of gasoline, which is in very short supply across the island.
Many of the smaller municipalities have no way to contact the state government as up to 95 percent of their infrastructure was destroyed in the storm. The Air Force landed a C-5 cargo jet to set up a headquarters for the relief efforts and other military units are already moving to help set up a concerted, cohesive effort between the military, FEMA and the state and local authorities.
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