In Puerto Rico, US Increases Troops to Airlift Food and Water to Communities In Need

By Joshua Philipp, The Epoch Times
October 1, 2017 Updated: October 2, 2017

The Department of Defense (DoD) is increasing the number of U.S. troops helping with relief efforts in Puerto Rico, following the Category 4 Hurricane Maria.

The number of Department of Defense personnel deployed to help is being increased from 4,600 to around 6,400. This will add to the 10,000 federal forces already deployed to the island.

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello made the announcement during an Oct. 1 press briefing in San Juan, noting the increase in troop presence was made about 36 hours prior to the event.

“Remember the DoD is supporting on certain tasks, and logistical tasks,” he said, noting that the DoD would increase or decrease the number of troops as they complete work and are assigned other tasks.

According to the Pentagon’s DoD News, the troops are supporting the Puerto Rican government and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which is the lead federal agency for disaster relief in Puerto Rico.

After food and water, the next highest priority is the distribution of gasoline and diesel. DoD News says there are more than 720 gas stations currently open on the island, and the Trump administration has close to a million barrels of diesel and half-a-million barrels of gasoline on the way.

“This is important as diesel is needed to run generators providing electrical power for key infrastructure—such as hospitals—in areas where Maria knocked out the power grid,” it states.

In some areas roads have been blocked by landslides, which has cut off some communities. Rossello said there are two communities, in particular, which have been cut off by the disaster, and “one of the main efforts that the DoD will take on is making sure that we can air supply food and water to those communities while we establish direct connection through the roads.”

The local government will also more than double the number of regional distribution centers, increasing them from 11 to 25, or more, Rossello said, according to DoD News. “The more of these we have throughout Puerto Rico, the easier it is to get food and water for these municipalities. DoD and FEMA and our government are working together so we can establish these locations and make sure food and water get distributed appropriately.”

The government will also consolidate the 8,800 refugees into 139 shelters. Rossello said “We are making sure people get to their homes when they can get to their homes, and providing alternative housing in the meantime.”

The Trump administration signed a 10-day waiver on the Jones Act on Sept. 28, which will allow foreign-flagged ships to carry aid to Puerto Rico.

President Donald Trump is scheduled to visit Puerto Rico on Oct 3. White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said during a Sept. 28 press briefing that “There’s a long way to go, but we will not rest until everyone is safe and secure. Our message to the incredible people of Puerto Rico is this: The President is behind you.”

Trump said on Twitter on Oct. 1, “We have done a great job with the almost impossible situation in Puerto Rico. Outside of the Fake News or politically motivated ingrates, people are now starting to recognize the amazing work that has been done by FEMA and our great Military. All buildings now inspected for safety. Thank you to the Governor of P.R. and to all of those who are working so closely with our First Responders. Fantastic job!”