U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan, who is leading the disaster relief efforts for Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, has stated that not enough has been done to meet the immediate needs of the storm-ravaged U.S. territories and their people. Buchanan asserted that help would arrive to the islands in short order.
On Sept. 29, Buchanan provided a status update on disaster relief for Puerto Rico, noting that more U.S. military service members were being deployed to the island.
In an interview with CNN, Buchanan said: "We're certainly bringing in more [troops] ... For example, on the military side, we're bringing in both Air Force, Navy, and Army medical capabilities in addition to aircraft, more helicopters."
The three-star general added, "[But] it's not enough, and we're bringing more in."
On Sept. 20, Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico, devastating the U.S. territory and the surrounding Virgin Islands. The Category 4 storm destroyed Puerto Rico's electrical grid and left 44 percent of its inhabitants without potable drinking water, The Hill reports.
On Sept. 28, the U.S. Northern Command deployed Buchanan to supervise on-the-ground relief efforts in Puerto Rico. President Donald Trump has drawn criticism for his administration's response to the disaster, with critics noting that it took the military more than one week to appoint Buchanan.
"It didn't require a three-star general eight days ago," White House Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert told reporters on Sept. 28, according to The Hill.
When asked if it was a mistake not to have a general on the ground in Puerto Rico earlier, Bossert replied: "No, not at all. In fact, that doesn’t affect the way that we stage equipment and the way we area command and field operational command. This is textbook and it’s been done well."
Several Puerto Rican lawmakers have pushed back on the Trump administration's assertion that relief efforts have gone smoothly.
"The federal response has been a disaster," New Progressive Party Rep. Jose Enrique Melendez of Puerto Rico told The Associated Press. "It's been really slow."
On Sept. 28, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke asserted that the federal response for Puerto Rico should make Americans feel inspired.
"I know it is really a good news story in terms of our ability to reach people and the limited number of deaths that have taken place in such a devastating hurricane," Duke said.
On Sept. 29, Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz of San Juan blasted Duke's remark.
"Maybe from where she's standing it's a good news story," said Yulin Cruz. "When you're drinking from a creek, it's not a good news story. When you don't have food for a baby, it's not a good news story."
"Dammit, this is not a good news story," Yulin Cruz added. "This is a 'people are dying' story. It's a life-or-death story."
Sources: AP via TIME, CNN, CNN via YouTube, The Hill (2) / Featured Image: Roby Di Giovine/SC National Guard/Flickr / Embedded Images: Nicholas Dutton/U.S. Department of Agriculture/Flickr, Jose Ahiram Diaz-Ramos/Air Force Magazine/Flickr