President of the United States of America Donald Trump has temporarily lifted the shipping ban placed on Puerto-Rico in order to help the island get much-needed fuel and supplies. This announcement was shared by the White House following the devastation made in the country by Hurricane Maria.
Despite the lifting of the shipping ban, the American island still has huge logistical hurdles to surmount if it intends to get the needed food, fuel and drinking water to its populace. Most of the Caribbean island’s 3.4 million people also are without electricity. Maria which swept across the island one week ago is the most powerful hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in nearly 90 years. While the situation is quite bad, the devastation (deaths and all) by Hurricane Maria wasn’t as bad as first feared (30 killed in the Caribbean, including at least 16 in Puerto Rico) and definitely not as bad as Hurricane Irma which claimed scores of lives.
According to Brock Long, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) relief operations had been hampered by damage to the air traffic control system, airports and the ports. He was also dissatisfied with government response to the unfortunate situation.
Shipping containers have been piling up at Puerto Rico’s ports in the aftermath of Maria, which struck on Sept. 20, causing widespread flooding and major damage to homes, roads and other infrastructure.
The Federal Emergency Management Authority claims that as at Wednesday, it had delivered more than 4.4m meals and 6.5m litres of water to Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, however, the transport of relief supplies has been hampered by impassable roads caused by fallen trees or flooding.
It is noted that some 10,000 federal officers, including 7,200 troops, were involved in the aid effort.
The restriction, known as the Jones Act suspended shipping from the US mainland to the island.
Ricardo Rossello- the governor of Puerto Rico, had sought a waiver of the Jones Act, which limits shipping between U.S. ports to U.S. owned-and-operated vessels, to ensure there was no impediment to bringing in supplies. The Jones Act waiver will be in place for 10 days and will cover all products shipped to Puerto Rico from US ports.
Many residents of the Island are exasperated at the prolonged lack of electricity, reliable supplies of drinking water and other essentials even as FEMA and the U.S. military have stepped up relief efforts,
The U.S. government has periodically lifted the Jones Act for a temporary period following violent storms, including after hurricanes Harvey and Irma, which hit Texas and Florida in late August and earlier this month.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders announced on Twitter that Trump had authorized the Jones Act waiver at Rossello’s request. The governor, who has staunchly defended Trump’s response to the hurricane, retweeted her post with a “Thank you @POTUS” – referring to the American president’s official Twitter handle.
Despite the catastrophe, the island is keeping a brave face and a few shops are open for business although basic services are still non-existent for most.
Trump plans to visit the island on Tuesday.
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