Aid be­gins to flow to hur­ri­cane-hit Puerto Rico

Truro Daily News - - WORLD -

Large amounts of fed­eral aid have be­gan mov­ing into Puerto Rico, 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.

In north­west Puerto Rico, peo­ple be­gan re­turn­ing to their homes Satur­day af­ter a spill­way eased pres­sure on a dam that cracked af­ter more than a foot of rain fell in the wake of the hur­ri­cane.

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.

The is­land’s in­fra­struc­ture was in sorry shape long be­fore Maria struck. A US$73 bil­lion debt cri­sis has left agen­cies like the state power com­pany broke. As a re­sult the power com­pany aban­doned most ba­sic main­te­nance in re­cent years, leav­ing the is­land sub­ject to reg­u­lar black­outs.

A fed­eral con­trol board over­see­ing Puerto Rico’s fi­nances au­tho­rized up to $1 bil­lion in lo­cal funds to be used for hur­ri­cane re­sponse, but Gov. Ri­cardo Ros­sello said he would ask for more.

“We’re go­ing to re­quest waivers and other mech­a­nisms so Puerto Rico can re­spond to this cri­sis,” he said. “Puerto Rico will prac­ti­cally col­lect no taxes in the next month.”

U.S. Rep. Ny­dia Ve­lazquez of New York said she will re­quest a one-year waiver from the Jones Act, a fed­eral law blamed for driv­ing up prices on Puerto Rico by re­quir­ing cargo ship­ments there to move only on U.S. ves­sels as a means of sup­port­ing the U.S. mar­itime in­dus­try.

“We will use all our re­sources,” Ve­lazquez said. “We need to make Puerto Rico whole again. These are Amer­i­can cit­i­zens.”

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