Puerto Rico’s governor calls for greater federal response to Maria

Politico reports: Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello called on the Pentagon to provide more search-and-rescue help and humanitarian resources to help the beleaguered island recover from “complete devastation” from Hurricane Maria.

“We need more resources from the Department of Defense so we can get helicopters and resources,” Rossello told POLITICO in a phone interview Sunday night.

“We know that there are capabilities in the surrounding areas, helicopters, planes and so forth,” he said. “And our petition is for us to be able to use them.”

A Defense Department spokesperson said in an e-mail that six Navy helicopters and three Marine Osprey planes capable of vertical takeoff and landing had begun search-and-rescue operations and damage assessments.

Days after the category 4 hurricane battered the island, only a handful of municipalities have been able to make contact with San Juan or the outside world. That has prompted the commonwealth government to dispatch runners to make contact, since roads throughout much of Puerto Rico have been made impassable. [Continue reading…]

Eric Holthaus writes: Initial estimates of damage to the island exceed $30 billion. That’s roughly one-third of Puerto Rico’s annual economic output — making Maria the rough equivalent of a $500-billion disaster in New York City or a $700-billion disaster in California. With the Puerto Rican government already saddled with more than $70 billion in debt, help is going to have to come from outside the island.

Puerto Rico, partly because of its unique relationship as a United States territory, faces a long and complicated recovery. The United Nations, which does not typically support recovery efforts in developed countries, has not yet issued an appeal for aid. The U.S. federal government should pick up most of the tab through grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which Congress will have to approve. So far, Maria’s impact in Puerto Rico has received only a fraction of the news coverage as Harvey’s landfall in Texas and Irma’s in Florida. That could potentially weaken public support for a multibillion-dollar aid package.

A lingering crisis could motivate a mass exodus to the U.S. mainland. But relocation is expensive, and those without the means to move could risk being left behind to shoulder an even bigger burden by themselves. [Continue reading…]

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