WASHINGTON, Oct. 1, 2017 — The Defense Department continues to deploy more response capacity to Puerto Rico to support the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s need for a commodities distribution network able to reach isolated communities and sustained medical support for the island’s residents, Army Lt. Col. Jamie Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement this morning.
Army Lt. Gen. Jeffrey S. Buchanan, who’s in command of DoD’s Hurricane Maria response and relief efforts in Puerto Rico, is leading the department’s efforts to establish aerial and seaport nodes of debarkation throughout Puerto Rico so that FEMA, with DoD support, can flow resources throughout the commonwealth, Davis said. Buchanan is being assisted by his deputy, Army Brig. Gen. Richard C. Kim.
DoD also is supporting the establishment of a medical support plan to best position medical support assets as they arrive in Puerto Rico, the spokesman said.
Army Lt. Gen. Todd T. Semonite, Chief of Engineers and commanding general of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is in Puerto Rico overseeing temporary power installation, electrical distribution repairs, infrastructure improvements and Guajataca Dam reinforcement, Davis said.
Sixteen helicopters from Fort Bliss, Texas, will deploy to Puerto Rico Oct 2-3 on a C-5 Galaxy aircraft strategic lift mission, the spokesman said.
The Navy’s amphibious assault ship USS Wasp and additional Marine Corps rotary wing aircraft are en route to support operations in Puerto Rico, Davis said.
The Navy hospital ship, USNS Comfort, is scheduled to arrive in San Juan Oct 4, he said.
Davis provided the following updates and details of hurricane relief operations in Puerto Rico and elsewhere in the Caribbean region:
Puerto Rico Situational Update
-- Showers and thunderstorms have recently challenged operations, and an additional three to five inches of localized rain is possible through tomorrow.
-- FEMA reports assessments of 64 of 69 hospitals complete; 59 are partially or fully operational.
-- Seven-hundred-fourteen of 1,100 retail gas stations have reopened.
-- Forty-nine percent of grocery and big box stores are open. Eleven percent of Puerto Rico has cell service.
-- Erosion repairs to the Guajataca Dam will be conducted Oct. 1-2. The port of Ponce is now open.
U.S. Virgin Islands Situational Update
-- An assessment of the main hospital on St. Thomas will be completed today.
Details of DoD Response in Puerto Rico
-- U.S. Northern Command is deploying five Force Packages with enhanced logistics capacity, centered on commodity distribution and medical support, and designed around a sustainment brigade. Force Package 1 (Command and Control) is on the ground.
-- Lieutenant General Buchanan led a DoD assessment yesterday and has the 3rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command integrated with FEMA in development of an area-wide concept of operations focused on sustainment and commodities distribution. Facilities are being established throughout Puerto Rico for aerial and seaport nodes of debarkation to flow resources throughout the island.
-- Force Packages 2 and 3 are sustainment/logistical units and associated command and control; elements of Force Package 2 deployed into Puerto Rico yesterday. Additional sustainment units and aviation elements deploy today. Force Package 4 will follow and deliver helicopters on Oct 2-3, aviation command and control elements and medical units. Force Package 5 will provide more robust medical capacity.
-- The USS Wasp, with three embarked MH-60 rotary wing aircraft will arrive Oct 3, and will embark 10 additional aircraft -- six MH-60s and four CH-53s. The Marine Corps has identified eight additional MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft and two KC-130 fixed wing aircraft that will self-deploy to support operations on Puerto Rico.
Three U.S. Department of Health and Human Services disaster medical assistance teams are providing “hub-and-spoke” delivery of medical care from Mayaguez, Arecibo and Ponce. The USNS Comfort is expected to dock in San Juan, Puerto Rico on Oct 4, providing 522 medical personnel and capable of serving over 200 patients per day.
-- The port of Ponce was opened with restrictions on Sept. 30, with a draft restriction of 38 feet. Roosevelt Roads survey is complete with port opening assessment expected today.
-- The Guajataca Dam spillway continues to erode. U.S. Transportation Command delivered 900 super sandbags for spillway stabilization to Aguadilla Airport Sept. 30.
-- Spillway sandbag installation by the Army Corps of Engineers commences today and will be complete by Oct 2.
Foreign Disaster Assistance
-- U.S. Southern Command’s Joint Task Force Leeward Islands continues evacuations on Dominica. Following the evacuation of priority U.S. citizen medical cases, the task force will transition to on-call status.