Nearly the entire Puerto Rican power distribution system was damaged in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, the Pentagon revealed in a Tuesday statement.
Some generators on the island are reportedly operational but the statement clarified that “80% of the transmission system and 100% of the distribution system are damaged.” Worse, “approximately 44% of the population is without drinking water” and “eleven of 69 hospitals have fuel or power,” according to the statement.
Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo A. Rosselló warned of a possible “humanitarian crisis” if efforts are not immediately made to restore essential services to the island. However, U.S. officials warn that it could still be months before full power is back up, and U.S. military assets are only now beginning to respond in full force to the devastation.
President Donald Trump indicated he would visit Puerto Rico in early October to survey the damage and has ordered thousands of pounds of aid to the island.
“We simply can’t drive thousands of power trucks to Puerto Rico to help on power restoration,” Coast Guard Rear Adm. Peter Brown lamented Monday to The Washington Post.
“Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands are not Texas and Florida. They’re out here in the middle of the ocean. It’s more complicated to get people here, it’s more complicated to fix the power grids, it’s more complicated to fix a whole lot of other things,” Chief of the National Guard Bureau General Joseph L. Lengyel told The Hill Monday.
The USS Kearsarge group “has conducted a combined eight medical evacuations, 148 airlifts and delivered 44,177 lbs of relief supplies and cargo to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands since Hurricane Maria struck,” U.S. Northern Command noted in a Monday release. NORTHCOM also noted that U.S. strategic airlift command is operating at a high tempo delivering critical, lifesaving aid to the island, while the U.S. Army is deploying 8 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters to assist distribution efforts.
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