By Cheryl Pellerin
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, Oct. 10, 2017 — The Defense Department continues to respond to deadly hurricane damage in Puerto Rico, with 13,229 personnel now on the island and medical support operations ongoing aboard the Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort near San Juan, Pentagon spokesman Army Lt. Col. Jamie Davis reported today.
DoD response efforts in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands continue to focus on temporarily restoring power; distributing power generators and food, water and fuel; and expanding the distribution network, he said.
Response efforts also include medical support, route clearance, aviation support, planning support to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and support of the Army Corps of Engineers” repair of Guajataca Dam, Davis said.
On the Ground in Puerto Rico
The first priority of Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello and FEMA is to restore power, Davis said. The Army Corps of Engineers will work on power restoration in from San Juan east, and the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority will work on the western two-thirds of Puerto Rico. Power restoration crews continue to arrive on the island, he said.
Other priorities are hospitals and communication, with an increased focus on isolated regions, the spokesman said. DoD is executing a strategic plan to support these communities and ensure their needs are being met, he added.
The governor is implementing a plan to assign the Puerto Rico National Guard, augmented by the territorial militia, to support local leaders in each of the island’s 78 municipalities to ensure that more commodities — including food, water and fuel — are pushed to those in need, Davis said.
FEMA has verified that telecommunications and radio connectivity are operational for all hospitals and police stations, Davis said. Sixty-five of 67 hospitals are open — 36 on the power grid and 29 on generator power — and 43 of 48 dialysis centers are operating.
Fifteen percent of customers have electricity, 57 percent of customers have drinking water, although boiling orders remain in effect, 64 percent of the population has available cellular services and work continues to upgrade emergency cellular services, Davis said.
Seventy-six percent of gas stations now are open, and Puerto Rico’s Department of Transportation has signed 19 contracts for road repair and restoration.
Detailed DoD Response
Davis said U.S. Northern Command has delivered food, water and medical, sustainment and aviation support capabilities, the spokesman said. And 17 U.S. Transportation Command flights with equipment, personnel and relief supplies are scheduled for today.
Also today, Northcom is scheduled to deploy food, water and key DoD capabilities to Aguadilla, including elements of the 633rd Expeditionary Medical Support Hospital , which should arrive Oct. 14, Davis said.
Eighty-eight rotary-wing and 12 fixed-wing DoD aircraft are operating in Puerto Rico, he said.
An incident support base has been established in Aguadilla, on the northwestern tip of the island, and is a key distribution hub for western Puerto Rico, he said. USNS Comfort left Aguadilla yesterday and now is providing medical support near San Juan. Elements of the14th Combat Support Hospital continue to arrive, and the CSH is anticipated to be operational in Humacao, on the eastern coast, by the middle of next week, Davis said.
Transcom is keeping aeromedical evacuation assets in San Juan for possible patient movement to the continental United States, he said.
Davis said that DoD personnel have completed 227 of 344 requested generator pre-installation inspections and have installed 53 generators. Progress continues with persistent route clearance operations by Army Reserveengineers, Puerto Rico’s National Guard and Marine Expeditionary Unit military personnel, Davis said.
The Army’s 3rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command recently began water production operations near Guajataca Dam, he said.