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Conditions Slowly Starting To Improve in Puerto Rico

Oct. 3, 2017 (EIRNS)—Federal and commonwealth officials involved in the recovery effort in Puerto Rico indicated, yesterday, that while the recovery of the island in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria still has a long way to go, they are slowly beginning to make some progress. Gov. Ricardo Rosselló told reporters during a morning briefing in San Juan that Puerto Rican and federal officials are working as a unified coordination group and progress is being made in all lines of effort on the island, but Hurricane Maria’s devastation was so extreme and widespread that the island remains in emergency mode. Rosselló expected 25% of Puerto Ricans would have electricity by early November, but presumably meant from large diesel generators.

There are now some 7,200 military personnel on the ground, employed in areas such as transportation, security, fuel units and medical efforts. All ten airports on the island are now open, and eight seaports are accepting cargo. Rosselló also said that transportation is also improving. "By the end of the week, we will have 75% of the public transportation efforts working," he said.

During an appearance on National Public Radio, yesterday, Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan, in charge of coordinating the military effort with FEMA, was asked if he was getting everything he needs to help the people of Puerto Rico. "They’re on their way, and this is what I can say—we’re rapidly building up our response capability," he said.

"You know, when I first got here Thursday night (Sept. 28), we had about 25 helicopters, about 4,000 troops. Right now, we’ve got 44 helicopters, more than 7,000 troops. And this is only the military effort."

He added that "I’ve been denied absolutely nothing that we’re asking for," from the DOD and Northcom. He also said that the effort is doing fairly well to get the seaports, airports, and the perimeter road around the island open, "but we’ve got a long ways to go for the interior." A Pentagon update issued today reports that the number of aircraft available will rise to 80, with the arrival of additional Navy and Marine Corps helicopters, V-22 Ospreys and C-130s.

As for what needs to be done over the next 24-48 hours, Buchanan stressed distribution of supplies. "We’re really talking about fuel, food and water," he said.

"And again, our biggest challenge right now is on the interior of the island. Because we don’t have roads open, because there’s so many trees down, we’re trying to clear those routes. But in the meantime, we’re dependent on air—much of that is military air—to actually move that fuel, food and water to places that desperately need it."