The residents of Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, are facing “apocalyptic” devastation according to Governor Ricardo C. Rosselló. As many as 70,000 people are currently in danger while the entire island remains mostly without power, water, communications and medical services in the wake of Category 4 Hurricane Maria.
The U.S. Department of Defense immediately dispatched 2,600 troops to help with relief efforts in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Military personnel focused their attention on search and rescue operations, delivering life-sustaining supplies and providing generators and fuel to power critical infrastructure such as water treatment facilities and hospitals, Pentagon spokesman, Army Colonel Rob Manning said in a statement reported by Stars and Stripes.
President Donald Trump deployed numerous ships from the U.S. Navy to provide assistance to the territories. One of those ships is the USS Kearsarge, a WASP-class amphibious assault ship. Officials deployed the ship to assist in delivering equipment and medical supplies as other military resources work on rebuilding the airports. The Kearsarge is also tasked with the delivery of 22,200 pounds of supplies and cargo.
The Kearsarge was already in the area after the president deployed the ship to the Florida coast to assist with Hurricane Irma relief activities, Breitbart Texas reported.
“We train for this kind of mission. It’s in the DNA of the Marine Expeditionary Unit to rapidly respond to crisis when called upon,” 26th MEU Executive Officer Lt. Colonel Christopher Timothy said earlier this month. “Alongside our Navy partners, we stand strong and ready to help those affected by this storm in whatever way we can.”
From the deck of the warship, Marine pilots are prepared to place five Osprey, six Super Stallions, and three Huey helicopters wherever they are needed to provide assistance and support to local rescue and recovery operations.
Of particular concern is the Guajataca Dam. The dam failed partially sending massive quantities of water downstream.
“Some of the dam has fallen apart,” Governor Rosselló told CNN. “Now we are making sure that we can assess if the other part will fall down as well. It represents a great danger for about an estimated 70,000 people.”
The lack of cell phone service on the island makes evacuation alerts more difficult. Law enforcement personnel contacted people individually to make notifications. Most have been evacuated, officials stated, but efforts are still underway on Tuesday.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers personnel began work Monday to inspect the dam and develop plans to shore it up.
Members of the Puerto Rico National Guard are working to re-establish the island’s communications infrastructure. The guardsmen are also tasked with debris clearing operations and evacuation of victims.
The military is still tasked with providing assistance in Texas, Louisiana, and Florida in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. The Department of Defense assures the public it is not stretched too thin in these efforts.
“We have the capability to do exactly what we’re doing, and we’re going to do all we can for the people of Puerto Rico and the Caribbean in the wake of these disastrous storms,” he said. “This is a long-term effort. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and [the Defense Department] will continue to support them as long as support is needed.”