WASHINGTON (NBC) — This morning a US Navy Hospital ship is headed to Puerto Rico to help millions of people desperately in need of food and water a week after Hurricane Maria hit the island.
The Trump administration is under fire for not acting quickly enough.
The U.S. Navy ship “Comfort” – a floating hospital – is on its way to Puerto Rico where a three-star general is now in charge.
Elaine Duke, acting Homeland Security Secretary, said “We are using air support, where we can’t get through. We are cleaning the roads greatly. We have expanded greatly, probably over 90 percent of the island now is accessible.”
Ten thousand federal employees – most of them military – are on the ground.
And President Trump has lifted a decades-old law that will allow supplies sitting offshore on foreign ships to be distributed.
It’s been more than a week since Hurricane Maria hit.
Texas and Florida got help almost immediately. Critics wonder why here, it’s taking so long.
Tom Bossert, White House Homeland Security Advisor said, “It didn’t require three star general eight days ago.”
Brock Long, FEMA Director, said, “We need America to unite around this rather than pointing the fingers right now.”
Nearly half the island has no clean drinking water.
Lawmakers are planning for a long-term effort.
House Speaker, Paul Ryan said, “A huge capital injection will occur in two days so the resources are there, but we clearly believe and understand that those resources will be tapped.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said, “We have to move as quickly as possible.”
Time is critical. Fuel is scarce. Floods have damaged hospitals. Power could be out for months in some areas.
Nearly three and a half million Americans waiting for Washington to come to their rescue.
The Jones Act that old law allowing only U.S. ships to service Puerto Rico could become a battle here on Capitol Hill. It’s temporarily lifted for 10 days. The shipping industry wants it to stay. A couple of lawmakers have already launched an effort to get rid of it permanently.
Tracie Potts, NBC News