The U.S. government is pulling emergency aid from Puerto Rico seven weeks after initial deployment in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. According to the Washington Post, the military had initially deployed combat ships, 70 helicopters, and two Army hospitals to provide relief to the 3.4 million Americans of Puerto Rico.
Now, seven weeks later, Lieutenant General Jeffrey Buchanan is leading thousands of personnel from Puerto Rico. “I think we’re in the right place to transition,” said Buchanan to CNN.
Up to 60% of Puerto Ricans are still living without power two months after Hurricane Maria’s impact. The island is also plagued by limited clean drinking water, excess debris, and increasing amounts of standing water. Each of these problems poses a major health threat to the Americans of Puerto Rico as waterborne and mosquito-borne diseases become a greater problem.
One of the island’s biggest concerns is the need for power. Emergency generators are currently what’s running the machines of various operations in Maricao.
A solar panel would need to be up to 600 square feet in size to power an average sized home. However, according to vice president of operations Eric Santiago-Justiniano, the emergency generators being used in the town are costing between $95,000 and $140,000 a week in diesel.
With thousands of people leaving the island for the mainland and power difficulties still a terrible problem, Carlos Rodriguez, a resident of Maricao, says it’s a big concern that the U.S. military is leaving the island. Maricao, he says, is halfway through recovery at the most.
The decision to remove Buchanan and other deployed troops came from the Department of Defense, FEMA, and the Governor of Puerto Rico Ricardo Rosselló. Services needed by the island could be handed over to the National Guard and reservists, the decision stated.
“I have mixed emotions,” said Buchanan. “I have tremendous pride in all these troops, all four services … and they’ve done a phenomenal job, but the work isn’t done. We’re out of the emergency phase, but people still need help.”
Along with Buchanan, hundreds of troops will be leaving the island. The U.S. military will be leaving behind 2,500 army reservists and 5,000 National Guard servicepeople to continue to assist the Americans of Puerto Rico.
The number of those still available to assist in the recovery of the island satisfies Buchanan. However, the lieutenant shows concern over the next hurricane season.
“One concern I have,” he said, “is resiliency for the next emergency. Things are not going to be back to normal by the next hurricane season.”