Federal aid flows to Puerto Rico
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Thousands of Puerto Ricans were getting water and food rations Friday thanks to federal government aid.
Military trucks laden with water bottles and other supplies began to reach various parts of Puerto Rico and U.S. federal officials pointed to progress in the recovery effort, insisting that more gains would come soon.
In some cases, aid that was being distributed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency was simply not enough to meet demand on an island of 3.4 million people where nearly everyone was still without power, half were without running water in their homes and the economy was still crippled from the effects of the storm that swept across the U.S. territory as a fierce Category 4 hurricane on Sept. 20.
FEMA sent Rio Grande officials shipments of food and water for the past three days and arrived Thursday to help distribute meal packets, water and snacks in one community.
Those who made it, however, were grateful. “This will help somewhat, so we don't starve,” said Anthony Jerena, a 33-year-old father of two teenagers who had managed to get two boxes of water, each containing 24 bottles and, three packages of meals-ready-to-eat.
Gov. Ricard Rossello and other officials said they were aware of people's deepening frustrating and of the difficulty, and danger, of living on a sweltering tropical island with no air conditioning and little to no water. He blamed some of the delay on the logistical challenge of getting aid shipments out of the seaports and airports, all of which were knocked out of commission in the storm, and then distributing the supplies on debris-strewn streets.
Rossello said Friday that the government would seize all food still sitting in containers at the port that private business owners had not yet claimed and would distribute it to people for free. He said the government would use FEMA funds to repay the owners.
He said operations were also ramping up at the airport and that the government had requested drivers and other workers from various federal agencies to help distribute aid, which he expected to begin flowing within the next several days. “We know we have to do more,” he said. “We’re still not getting at the optimal point. But it has been a limitation on logistics and as soon as we get those assets we are going to put them on the ground.”
The governor also said he would shorten the nightly curfew by three hours, requiring people to be off the streets by 9 p.m. instead of 6 p.m., and would end a ban on alcohol sales that was in place since before the storm.
He spoke after touring the island with Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke.