In Puerto Rico, enhanced communications and completed assessments are providing a clearer picture of the extent of the storm damage and the magnitude of the response challenge, Defense Department spokesman Army Lt. Col. Jamie Davis said today.
“Given the changing scope and conditions, DoD will adjust its concept of operations in Puerto Rico and transition from a short term, sea-based response to a predominantly land-based effort designed to provide robust, longer term support to [the Federal Emergency Management Agency] and [to Puerto Rico],” Davis said. The situation in the U.S. Virgin Islands continues to improve, he said, noting that the governor is shifting from response to recovery.
In Puerto Rico, response operations continue as synchronization of efforts between the Title 10 forces, Puerto Rico National Guard and FEMA improve. Fuel distribution remains the top FEMA priority. Multiple DoD elements delivered fuel and continue route clearance operations. Fifty nine of 69 hospitals are operational with unknown status. Roughly 44 percent of the population remains without drinking water. The San Juan Airport and nine other airports are open. Three seaports are open and five are open with restrictions.
In the U.S. Virgin Islands, the J.F. Luis Hospital in St. Croix has been found to be structurally sound. Power has been restored to the Schneider Hospital on St. Thomas. Airports are closed except for military and relief operations. Eight seaports are open with restrictions.
DoD Response in Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands
-- U.S. Northern Command is developing an enhanced logistical capability designed around a sustainment brigade and able to provide logistical command and control, transportation, supply distribution, movement control and engineering capabilities.
-- The U.S. Army North deputy commanding general, Brig. Gen. Rich Kim, will deploy to Puerto Rico today and establish a joint forces land component command forward headquarters to manage the Title 10 support to the response.
-- Northcom will deploy medical capability and ambulances and has requested the hospital ship USNS Comfort prepare to get underway. The ship has a 72-96 hour prep time.
-- U.S. Transportation Command coordinated 14 flights to the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico yesterday, delivering food, water, FEMA communications, FEMA logistics, security teams and critical DoD enablers -- communications, logistics, and command and control -- and has 16 flights scheduled today to deliver food, water, communications and DoD rotary-wing aviation.
-- A joint Army National Guard and Marine expeditionary unit team is providing first responder movement, commodities and fuel distribution, and route clearance in Puerto Rico. The team established Roosevelt Roads Airfield as an Installation Staging Base; available for 24/7 hurricane relief and commercial operations. The MEU is also moving Department of Health and Human Services assessment teams, via helicopter, to hospitals across Puerto Rico to determine medical requirements.
-- The Defense Logistics Agency is transporting 15,000 gallons of propane to Puerto Rico and 10,000 to the U.S. Virgin Islands and has coordinated the shipment of trucks and support vehicles, including 175,000 gallons of diesel and 75,000 gallons of gasoline, by barge to Puerto Rico by Sept. 29. DLA is also shipping 90 fuel trucks to Puerto Rico.
Foreign Disaster Assistance
Caribbean Region: U.S. Southern Command’s Joint Task Force Leeward Islands continues to support State Department humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations in the Leeward and Windward Islands, conducting search and rescue operations and evacuating U.S. citizens. Helicopters from the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp continue to support evacuations of U.S. citizens and to respond to requests for reconnaissance, transportation and logistics support.