US gen­eral picked for Puerto Rico aid

Otago Daily Times - - World -

SAN JUAN: The Pen­tagon yes­ter­day named a se­nior gen­eral to com­mand mil­i­tary re­lief op­er­a­tions in hur­ri­caner­av­aged Puerto Rico and the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion sent a se­nior emis­sary to the is­land as United States law­mak­ers called for a more ro­bust re­sponse to the cri­sis.

The US ter­ri­tory of 3.4 mil­lion peo­ple strug­gled through a ninth day with vir­tu­ally no elec­tric­ity, patchy com­mu­ni­ca­tions and short­ages of fuel, clean water and other es­sen­tials in the wake of Hur­ri­cane Maria, the most pow­er­ful storm to hit the is­land in nearly 90 years.

The storm struck on Septem­ber 20 with lethal, roof­rip­ping force and tor­ren­tial rains that caused wide­spread flood­ing and heav­ily dam­aged homes, roads and other in­fra­struc­ture.

The storm killed more than 30 peo­ple across the Caribbean, in­clud­ing at least 16 in Puerto Rico. Gover­nor Ri­cardo Ros­sello called the is­land’s dev­as­ta­tion un­prece­dented.

The US mil­i­tary, which has poured thou­sands of troops into the re­lief ef­fort, named Lieu­tenant­gen­eral Jef­frey Buchanan to over­see its re­sponse on the is­land.

Buchanan will be the Pen­tagon’s main li­ai­son with the Fed­eral Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency (Fema), the US Gov­ern­ment’s lead agency on the is­land, and fo­cus on aid dis­tri­bu­tion, the Pen­tagon said.

Fema has al­ready placed the US Army Corps of En­gi­neers in charge of re­build­ing the is­land’s crip­pled power grid.

In yet an­other move rais­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s pro­file in the cri­sis, act­ing US Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary Elaine Duke will visit Puerto Rico to­day with other se­nior gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials to meet the gover­nor, Puerto Ri­can au­thor­i­ties and fed­eral re­lief work­ers.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump again praised the Gov­ern­ment’s per­for­mance, say­ing on Twit­ter Fema and other first re­spon­ders were ‘‘do­ing a GREAT job’’, but com­plained about me­dia cover­age.

Demo­cratic US Se­na­tor Richard Blu­men­thal, of Con­necti­cut, said the cri­sis was shift­ing from a nat­u­ral dis­as­ter to a man­made one. The Gov­ern­ment’s re­sponse had been ‘‘shame­fully slow and un­der­sized and should be vastly up­graded and in­creased’’, he told the Se­nate.

He called for as many as 50,000 troops to bet­ter co­or­di­nate lo­gis­tics and de­liv­er­ing help.

Even as Fema and the US mil­i­tary stepped up re­lief ef­forts, many res­i­dents in Puerto Rico voiced frus­tra­tion.

In one sign of the sense of desperation, thou­sands lined up at San Juan har­bour yes­ter­day to board a cruise ship bound for Florida. The hu­man­i­tar­ian mis­sion, of­fered free of charge, was ar­ranged be­tween Royal Caribbean In­ter­na­tional and Puerto Ri­can au­thor­i­ties on a largely ad­hoc, first­come ba­sis that sought to give pri­or­ity to those fac­ing spe­cial hard­ships.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion ear­lier lifted re­stric­tions known as the Jones Act for 10 days on for­eign ship­ping from the US main­land to Puerto Rico. While that mea­sure might help speed cargo ship­ments, Puerto Rico is strug­gling to move sup­plies around the is­land once they ar­rived.

Over­all, the is­land is likely to need far more than $US30 bil­lion ($NZ41.6 bil­lion) in long­term aid for dis­as­ter re­lief and re­build­ing ef­forts af­ter Maria, a se­nior Repub­li­can con­gres­sional aide said yes­ter­day.

The im­me­di­ate re­lief ef­fort was badly ham­pered by in­fra­struc­ture dam­age.

Puerto Rico will ask the US Fed­eral Re­serve and Trea­sury for lines of credit ‘‘at rea­son­able rates’’ as it strug­gles to re­build af­ter the hur­ri­cane, Gover­nor Ri­cardo Ros­sello said yes­ter­day.

‘‘We are not go­ing to have rev­enues in the next cou­ple of months so that puts us in a bind,’’ Ros­sello told CNBC.

As of yes­ter­day, the Fed had ‘‘not re­ceived a re­quest at this time’’, a spokesman said. — Reuters

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.