September 26, 2017

USA: The PR Island Devastated By Category 4 Hurricane Last Week. Puerto Rico Officials Praised The Trump Administration For Maria Response. Media Lying About No Help From President Trump.

Fox Business Published on WEDNESDAY September 20, 2017: FEMA Director Brock Long on how FEMA is responding to Hurricane Maria.

Fox News Published on FRIDAY September 22, 2017: FEMA Director Brock Long shares an update on hurricane disaster response on 'Your World'
Pres Trump sent out that tweet above on Wednesday SEPTEMBER 20th. 
The Washington Examiner

The U.S. military said Tuesday that 80 percent of the electricity transmission system in Puerto Rico and all of the island's power distribution network, which brings power to customers, is damaged from Hurricane Maria.

The Defense Department said only 11 of 69 hospitals in Puerto Rico have fuel or power.

Hurricane Maria's thrashing of the U.S. territory last week left the entire island and its 3.4 million residents without power.

Food, water, and fuel are scarce, and government officials say Puerto Rico could be without power for four to six months.

President Trump said Tuesday the Federal Emergency Management Agency, as well as first responders and the military, are being deployed to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to "save lives, protect families, and begin a long and very, very difficult restoration process."

Rebuilding Puerto Rico's energy infrastructure will be a challenge because the island's government-run power utility is bankrupt and its electricity grid was already fragile.

PREPA's power plants are 44 years old on average, Reuters reported, compared to the industry-wide average of 18 years.

Puerto Rico derives most of its power from Venezuelan crude oil, and PREPA relied on selling bonds to pay for the imported oil it burned at its aging power plants, which need billions of dollars worth of repairs.

PREPA charges the island's residents high rates, more than any U.S. state but Hawaii, according to the Energy Information Administration.

The power company is also grappling with a manpower shortage. PREPA has lost 30 percent of its employees since 2012 as local residents migrate to the mainland to escape the island's financial woes and a stagnant economy.
Associated Press
written by Danica Coto
Monday September 25, 2017

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Puerto Rico’s nonvoting representative in the U.S. Congress said Sunday that Hurricane Maria’s destruction has set the island back decades, even as authorities worked to assess the extent of the damage.

“The devastation in Puerto Rico has set us back nearly 20 to 30 years,” said Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner Jenniffer Gonzalez. “I can’t deny that the Puerto Rico of now is different from that of a week ago. The destruction of properties, of flattened structures, of families without homes, of debris everywhere. The island’s greenery is gone.”

Engineers on Sunday planned to inspect the roughly 90-year-old Guajataca Dam, which holds back a reservoir covering about 2 square miles (5 square kilometers) in northwest Puerto Rico. The government said it suffered a large crack after Maria dumped 15 inches (nearly 40 centimeters) of rain on the surrounding mountains and that it “will collapse at any minute.” Nearby residents had been evacuated, but began returning to their homes Saturday after a spillway eased pressure on the dam.

Puerto Rico’s National Guard diverted an oil tanker that broke free and threatened to crash into the southeast coast, said Gov. Ricardo Rossello, and officials still had not had communication with nine of 78 municipalities.

“This is a major disaster,” he said. “We’ve had extensive damage. This is going to take some time.”

The death toll from Maria in Puerto Rico was at least 10, including two police officers who drowned in floodwaters in the western town of Aguada. That number was expected to climb as officials from remote towns continued to check in with officials in San Juan. Authorities in the town of Vega Alta on the north coast said they had been unable to reach an entire neighborhood called Fatima, and were particularly worried about residents of a nursing home.

Across the Caribbean, Maria had claimed at least 31 lives, including at least 15 on hard-hit Dominica.

Mike Hyland, a spokesman for the American Public Power Association, which represents the Puerto Rican power agency, said Sunday that restoration is a long ways off. The organization is working with U.S. Energy Department crews as well as New York Power Authority workers sent down by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to fly over the island and assess damage.

Crews hoped to get helicopters and drones in the air over the next two days to assess the damage, but Hyland said they need to be patient and let the military continue rescuing people before focusing on restoring power.

“We are trying to get an understanding of the extent of the damage over the next 48 hours to then begin to work with our federal partners to get the right crews and equipment down to Puerto Rico,” Hyland said.

Large amounts of federal aid have begun 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.

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 $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 the governor said he would ask for more.

“We’re going to request waivers and other mechanisms so Puerto Rico can respond to this crisis,” Rossello 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.”

A group of anxious mayors traveled to the capital to meet with Rossello to present a long list of items they urgently need. The north coastal town of Manati had run out of fuel and fresh water, Mayor Jose Sanchez Gonzalez said.

“Hysteria is starting to spread. The hospital is about to collapse. It’s at capacity,” he said, crying. “We need someone to help us immediately.”

Across Puerto Rico, more than 15,000 people were in shelters, including some 2,000 rescued from the north coastal town of Toa Baja. Many Puerto Ricans planned to head to the mainland to temporarily escape the devastation.
USA Today
written by Rick Jervis
SATURDAY September 23, 2017 馃憟

TOA BAJA, Puerto Rico — People in this storm-torn town waded through muddy water, swept thick mud out of living rooms or drove through thigh-high water crossings in cars that sputtered, stalled and started again.

Nearby, a FEMA response team, with specialists from Indiana, California, Florida and other states, took notes or peered into an iPad GPS. The team was on a reconnaissance mission following Hurricane Maria and one of the first signs of the U.S. government's promised support in the disaster.

"You hear about the destruction, but honestly, until we get out here and see it firsthand, it's hard to frame it all up," said Mike Pruitt, of Indiana, of FEMA's Incident Support Command. "It's absolutely devastating to see what they've lost."

FEMA teams were already in Puerto Rico earlier this month working on relief efforts following Hurricane Irma and sprung into reconnaissance and search-and-rescue missions as soon as Maria's winds died down. FEMA is widely known as the federal disaster recovery agency, but it's also involved in dispatching rescue teams and gathering intel in the first chaotic days of a disaster.

President Trump has declared Puerto Rico a major disaster and pledged the full support of the U.S. government.

On the second floor of a sprawling hotel in San Juan's Isla Verde neighborhood, teams of FEMA officials and search-and-rescue teams from around the USA pecked at laptops or readied backpacks and equipment. The teams rode out Hurricane Maria's fury in the nearby ballroom. Now, the area serves as the command center for federal responders.

The hotel houses 276 rescue personnel, including task forces from Virginia, Florida and California, which do the search and rescues, canine units from California and Missouri, and flight specialists, said Karl Lee, a FEMA Incident Support Team member.

Many of the members worked recent storms such as Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Hurricane Irma in Florida before asked to help in Puerto Rico, he said. It's been such a busy year for disasters that each of the 28 task force teams around the USA, which go into disaster areas to rescue people, have been tapped to help, something rarely done, Lee said.

"It's flushed the system," Lee said. "It's challenging."

On Friday and Saturday, FEMA teams fanned out across this flood-ravaged town in inflatable boats and high-water vehicles, searching for stranded residents. The Puerto Rican Emergency Management Agency has called Toa Baja, a coastal town 20 miles west of San Juan, one of the hardest-hit areas of the storm, with 2,000 displaced residents and at least eight drownings.

It was hit first by Maria's monstrous winds then water from the overflowing Rio Plata and finally by water released from a nearby dam that was threatening to breach, local officials said.

Residents scrambled onto roofs as more than 9 feet of water pushed into some areas. People fled to makeshift shelters and have been sleeping in local schools and the bleachers of ballparks.

On Saturday, some residents waved or let out small cheers when they saw a convoy of FEMA teams, including Virginia and Florida task force teams, being driven in high-water vehicles by members of the Puerto Rican National Guard.

"Long live USA!" one shirtless man yelled.

Johanna Ortega, 41, a resident whose house took on 6 feet of water, said the convoy was the first sign of help they've seen since the floods. "Nothing's working, we don't hear from anyone," she said. "We feel abandoned."

Another response team, Virginia Task Force 1, led a convoy to Ponce, on the southern edge of the island Wednesday. With Maria's remnants still whipping at them, the convoy of six Jeep Wranglers trudged through flooded highways and damaged roads. The usual hour-and-a-half drive took five hours, said Rob Schoenberger of Fairfax County, Va., who led the mission.

They were the first first-responders to emerge in the region following the storm. The local state police unit was so happy to see them they escorted them into town and showed them where to refill their gas tanks, he said.

Though roofs had blown off and trees and debris littered the street, overall Ponce fared well from the storm, Schoenberger said. There were no reports of mass casualty or signs of widespread destruction.

Schoenberger, who rescued Houston flood victims during Harvey, said Puerto Rico's destruction is unique in how a lack of communication has gripped the entire island - and how the storm impacted essentially every corner of the U.S. territory.

"This disaster is as big as this island, end to end," he said. "There is no safe haven."

No comments: