Fed­eral aid flows to Puerto Rico

Pawtucket Times - - VALLEY / NATION - By BEN FOX and DAN­ICA COTO

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.

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