Federal Emergency Response Working Smoothly, Puerto Rico’s Governor Says

WASHINGTON, Sept. 30, 2017 — Puerto Rico’s governor said the commonwealth and federal team combating Hurricane Maria’s devastation is working smoothly and every resource he has asked for is either on the island or on the way.

Food, water and fuel are flowing to the people most affected by the hurricane, Gov. Ricardo Rossello told reporters during a morning news conference from San Juan.

The governor praised the federal response led by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and supported by the Defense Department.

Around 10,000 people are in government shelters, he said, although that is down from 15,000 a week ago.

“We had 500 shelters, but now that is consolidated to 150,” Rossello said. “We have 11 regional staging areas throughout Puerto Rico that have been receiving food and water.”

He noted that Puerto Rico’s road system is being cleared and deliveries are being made directly to municipalities now. There are still some communities, he added, where the hurricane’s devastation has made travel difficult.

Improving Communications

And, the number of communications antennas in operation has doubled from yesterday, Rossello said. FEMA and DoD are leading this effort.

“We have 100 percent of land-line telephones working now,” Rossello said, “although we still don’t have the robust telecom network — it is at 33 percent.”

Airports and seaports are receiving shipments, said Rossello, noting Puerto Rico’s main airport is receiving 35 flights an hour and that traffic is expected to double within a week.

Opening Hospitals

Commonwealth medical experts have teamed with federal officials to examine hospitals and other medical facilities, the governor said. Part of the effort, he said, is to ensure the facilities have the fuel needed to power the generators supplying electricity. Fifty-one of the island’s 69 hospitals are open.

The improving hospital situation also points to progress on restoring the electrical grid, Rossello said, as nine hospitals now are working on external power.

Also, the hospital ship USNS Comfort is en route to Puerto Rico, the governor said.

Law enforcement officials and fire fighters from New York have arrived and they will work with Puerto Rican National Guardsmen around the island, Rossello said. Resources are also arriving from Kentucky, Alabama and Florida.

Power Generation

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is working with local officials on power generation, water purification and sewage disposal since the storm hit, the governor said.

Much needs to be done on the island as it enters the recovery phase of operations, said John Rabin, the acting FEMA regional administrator.

“Everybody here is in support of our fellow citizens in Puerto Rico,” Rabin said. “Our cooperation and collaboration with the entire federal family — the Department of Defense, Health and Human Services, the Department of Energy — all that is on display on the effort that we are going through every day to provide the support and response and recovery to Puerto Rico.”

(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)