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Rep. Zeldin Calls for Appointment of “National Incident Commander” in Puerto Rico

September 27, 2017
Press Release

Washington, DC - Congressman Lee Zeldin (R, NY-1) just released the following statement calling for the appointment of a National Incident Commander, as well as continued aid for Puerto Rico, a territory of the United States, after the destruction to the island caused by Hurricanes Maria and Irma:

“There is horrible devastation in Puerto Rico as a result of Hurricanes Maria and Irma. Just like after Hurricane Katrina and the BP spill, we need to immediately appoint a National Incident Commander to marshal all federal resources on the island, civilian and military. This is also essential so that there is one chain of command and aid doesn't get held up waiting for various agency approvals. This is life or death so one chain of command led by an experienced Admiral or General is critical. There needs to be increased flexibility and resources, including fuel, to save additional lives. The response in Puerto Rico is unprecedented in scope and has only just begun. There are many challenges, including lack of communication due to widespread power and service outages. I will continue to monitor the progress, and advocate for additional efforts to assist this very urgent and critical cause.”

Currently, the Department of Defense is providing logistical support that has included getting over 60 hospitals open. Friday, the Pentagon sent a fleet of Air Force jets loaded with supplies and medical personnel. The Army Corps of Engineers has re-opened Luis Munoz Marin International Airport in San Juan. FEMA told Congress on Tuesday morning that it had 500 personnel in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Thousands of federal personnel from various agencies are also in the area. FEMA also said that 7 million meals and 4 million liters of water were en route by barge.

The U.S. military said today its initial focus has been on reopening hospitals and Search and Rescue (SAR) operations. At least eight Army Black Hawk helicopters from Fort Campbell are being deployed to PR. The USNS Comfort, the US navy's east coast hospital ship, is now bound for Puerto Rico. This is one of only two DoD hospital ships. It has 1,000 beds, a heavy lift helicopter deck, and 12 operating theatres. As of Monday, the US Coast Guard also had 13 ships off of PR. They are conducting SAR operations and fixing ports that are damaged or full of debris and inoperable. The DOD has also set up a staging base at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Georgia and has delivered troops from Fort Bragg and Fort Stewart.