Puerto Rico Officials Praise Trump Admin for Response to Hurricane Maria

Puerto Rico officials are praising the proactive response by President Donald Trump and the federal government to the catastrophic damage wrought by Hurricane Maria.

Trump spoke on Thursday with the governors of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Earlier in the week Trump signed official disaster declarations for the two U.S. territories, according to The Hill.

The AP via Politico reported on Saturday:

Large amounts of federal aid began moving into Puerto Rico on Saturday, welcomed by local officials who praised the Trump administration’s response but called for the emergency loosening of rules long blamed for condemning the U.S. territory to second-class status (The Jones Act).

…(Gov. Ricardo) Rossello and other officials praised the federal government for planning its response in detail before the storm hit, a contrast with what Puerto Rico has long seen as the neglect of 3.4 million Americans living in a territory without a vote in Congress or the electoral college.

“This is the first time we get this type of federal coordination,” said Resident Commission Jenniffer Gonzalez, Puerto Rico’s non-voting representative in Washington.

…The opening of the island’s main port in the capital allowed 11 ships to bring in 1.6 million gallons of water, 23,000 cots, dozens of generators and food. Dozens more shipments are expected in upcoming days.

The federal aid effort is racing to stem a growing humanitarian crisis in towns left without fresh water, fuel, electricity or phone service. Officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is in charge of the relief effort, said they would take satellite phones to all of Puerto Rico’s towns and cities, more than half of which were cut off following Maria’s devastating crossing of Puerto Rico on Wednesday.

Former journalist Cate Long summed up the response, “On the ground or in transit to Puerto Rico — FEMA, US DOD, US DOE, US National Guard, US Coast Guard, Marines, 3 state national guards.”

Meanwhile Hillary Clinton, whom Trump vanquished in the 2016 presidential election, tried to score political points by making it appear as if Trump was not responding to Puerto Rico and din’t know they are Americans, “President Trump, Sec. Mattis, and DOD should send the Navy, including the USNS Comfort, to Puerto Rico now. These are American citizens.”

Clinton keyed off a tweet of photos of the disaster by a 2016 campaign worker, Samy Nemir Olivares.

FEMA has marshaled ships and airplanes with supplies to aid those in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico hit by Maria. As of Friday, two Navy and nine Coast Guard vessels and six commercial barges laden with supplies were on scene. 1.4 million meals had been delivered with another 800,000 stage for delivery.

A Sunday report by the AP noted the involvement by the federal government in trying to assess and restore power.

Mike Hyland, a spokesman for the American Public Power Association, which represents the Puerto Rican power agency, said Sunday that restoration is a long ways off. The organization is working with U.S. Energy Department crews as well as New York Power Authority workers sent down by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to fly over the island and assess damage.

Crews hoped to get helicopters and drones in the air over the next two days to assess the damage, but Hyland said they need to be patient and let the military continue rescuing people before focusing on restoring power.

“We are trying to get an understanding of the extent of the damage over the next 48 hours to then begin to work with our federal partners to get the right crews and equipment down to Puerto Rico,” Hyland said.”

This FEMA press release from Saturday (excerpted below) details the across-the-board response by the federal government:

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) continues to coordinate federal support for U.S. Virgin Islands’ and Puerto Rico’s response efforts. Federal partners are aggressively working to meet and overcome challenges to opening ports and restoring power to bring additional life-saving commodities and personnel into disaster-affected areas.

FEMA Urban Search & Rescue (US&R) task forces rescued 165 individuals and searched over 45 structures. Of those, approximately 100 people were rescued from a collapsing bridge in Puerto Rico today. Four US&R task forces are stationed in the Caribbean with another eight teams en route. The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) is conducting search and rescue operations in St. Croix, and in the surrounding waters, and so far rescued 15 individuals.

…The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) successfully opened five airports in Puerto Rico, and two airports in the U.S. Virgin Islands, for military and relief flights to bring in commodities, and lifesaving and life-sustaining resources. Federal partners established a fuel distribution site in San Juan for federal and local entities, to support first responder and critical facility needs.

Flights and sea vessels loaded with commodities are arriving or awaiting airport/port clearance for delivery:

Six commercial barges transported and delivered meals, water, generators, cots, and other commodities to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

An air bridge is established, flying three flights per day to St. Croix, each carrying approximately 33,000 meals.
The logistics support ship SS Wright arrived carrying more than 1.1 million meals, and nearly one million liters of freshwater.

Two shipping barges with 1.2 million liters of water, 31 generators, and more than 6,000 cots arrived in St. Thomas.

Two additional shipping barges loaded with food, water, and emergency relief supplies are en route to the Caribbean Sea from Florida.

Millions of additional meals are being flown to Puerto Rico from staging areas in Kentucky and Florida.
The Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) is transporting a shipment of 124,000 gallons of diesel fuel to Puerto Rico, with arrival in the coming days.

More at FEMA.

President Trump has done a good job leading the hurricane responses in Texas and Florida, garnering 64 percent approval for his handling of the storms, and appears to be doing so in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. However, as of post time he has not used the bully pulpit this weekend to focus the nation’s attention on the devastated islands. A few tweets would go a long way and help a great deal.

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