WASHINGTON, Sept. 30, 2017 — The Defense Department is accelerating relief operations and the deployment of additional response capacity to Puerto Rico to meet the Federal Emergency Management Agency‘s need for a comprehensive commodities distribution network able to reach isolated communities and provide sustained medical support for the island’s residents, Army Lt. Col. Jamie Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement this morning.
Army Lt. Gen. Jeffrey S. Buchanan, who’s in command of the DoD response effort in Puerto Rico, is working with FEMA and service components to get distribution priorities right, Davis said.
Buchanan, assisted by his deputy, Army Brig. Gen. Richard C. Kim, assessed that the planned force flow will build the capacity necessary to support Hurricane Maria response priorities, the spokesman said.
Army Lt. Gen. Todd T. Semonite, Chief of Engineers and commanding general of the Army Corps of Engineers, is also in Puerto Rico overseeing the temporary power project, electrical distribution repairs and infrastructure improvements, Davis said.
The Navy amphibious assault ship USS Wasp is now involved in response operations in and around Puerto Rico, the spokesman said.
Davis provided the following updates and details of hurricane relief operations in Puerto Rico and elsewhere in the Caribbean region:
Puerto Rico Situational Update
— FEMA reports assessments completed at 64 of 69 hospitals; 59 are partially or fully operational; five unassessed facilities are psychiatric hospitals that do not provide emergency care.
— Forty-five percent of customers have access to drinking water. Ninety-five percent of customers remain without power; power has been restored to San Juan airport and marine terminals.
— Eight hundred and fifty-one of 1,100 retail gas stations have reopened and purchase limits have been lifted. Forty-nine percent of grocery and big box stores are open.
— Erosion repairs to the Guajataca Dam are scheduled to begin Oct. 1-2.
— The Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort departed Norfolk, Virginia, yesterday and it is estimated to arrive in Puerto Rico on Oct. 4.
— Five of six FEMA-priority sea ports are open or open with restrictions; surveys of Ponce and Roosevelt Roads are ongoing.
U.S. Virgin Islands Situational Update
— An assessment of the main hospital on St. Thomas will be completed today.
Details of DoD Response in Puerto Rico
— U.S. Northern Command is deploying enhanced logistics capacity, centered on commodity distribution and medical support, and designed around a sustainment brigade. Northcom is flowing five force packages into Puerto Rico focused on logistics, tilt/rotary wing lift, and medical units. Force Package 1 is on the ground with leadership in Puerto Rico for planning and assessment. Force Packages 2 and 3 will deliver logistical units and associated command and control and is deploying. Force Package 4 will follow and deliver helicopters, aviation command-and-control elements and medical units. Force Package 5 will deploy next and provide more robust medical capacity.
— The USS Wasp, carrying three MH-60 helicopters, is en route to Puerto Rico and will embark 10 additional aircraft. The Marine Corps has identified eight additional MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft and two KC-130 fixed-wing aircraft that will self-deploy to support operations on Puerto Rico.
— U.S. military helicopters moved 3 HHS Disaster Medical Assistance Teams with 12,500 pounds of equipment to Mayaguez, Arecibo, and Ponce from Roosevelt Roads to support the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ “hub-and-spoke” concept for the delivery of medical care. Seven federal medical stations will be co-located with each of the seven hospitals identified as ‘hub’ hospitals.
— The Guajataca Dam spillway continues to erode; immediate risk reduction measures are ongoing to stabilize the dam spillway. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports two to three inches of rain has fallen, and an additional two to four inches each day over the next two days is possible.
— U.S. Transportation Command will deliver super sandbags for spillway stabilization today; sandbag installation will follow on or about Oct. 1.
Foreign Disaster Assistance
— U.S. Southern Command’s Joint Task Force Leeward Islands continues evacuations on Dominica. Following the evacuation of priority U.S. citizen medical cases, the Hurricane Response Task Force will transition to on-call status today.