Speaking at the White House, acting DHS secretary Elaine Duke tells reporters she is “very satisfied” with the Puerto Rico response.
“I know it is really a good news story in terms of our ability to reach people and the limited number of deaths that have taken place in such a devastating hurricane,” she says.
The Department of Defense charges Jeffrey Buchanan, a three-star general with the U.S. Army, with leading the U.S. military’s response in Puerto Rico. He arrives on the island the same day. The military estimates 160 million meals will be needed over the next 30 days.
“It didn’t require a three-star general eight days ago,” says Bossert, Trump’s homeland-security adviser, explaining why no military leader had been appointed before.
The USNS Comfort departs its base in Norfolk, Virginia. CNN reports that the hospital ship is expected to arrive “in the middle of next week.”
Friday, September 29—Nine days after landfall
FEMA offers a different assessment of the island’s 69 hospitals: “One is fully operational, 55 are partially operational, five are closed, and the status of eight is as yet unknown,” it says in a statement.
The Department of Defense also says it’s operating 10 regional supply-distribution centers across the territory, which supply “food, water, and other commodities.”
Carmen Yulín Cruz, the mayor of San Juan, responds to acting DHS secretary Duke saying the response is a “good news story.”
“Well maybe from where she's standing, it’s a good news story,” Cruz tells CNN. “When you're drinking from a creek, it's not a good news story. When you don't have food for a baby, it’s not a good news story. When you have to pull people down from buildings—I’m sorry, that really upsets me and frustrates me.”
She adds that Duke’s comments were not in line with the support the White House has otherwise offered. At a press conference later that day, Cruz tells reporters: “We are dying here. If we don’t get the food and the water into the people’s hands, we are going to see something close to a genocide.”
Saturday, September 30—10 days after landfall
Fifty-five percent of Puerto Rico, or about 1.87 million people, don’t have clean drinking water, the Pentagon says. This is an increase from numbers provided earlier in the week, meaning that either 300,000 people lost clean water through the week or initial estimates were off.
The Pentagon also says that about half of grocery and big-box stores have re-opened across the territory, as have about 851 gas stations.
President Trump grabs onto Mayor Cruz’s criticism from the day before. He tweets about the politics of Puerto Rico more than half a dozen times, criticizing her and accusing the press of attacking first responders and the military.
“The Mayor of San Juan, who was very complimentary only a few days ago, has now been told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump,” he writes. “Such poor leadership ability by the Mayor of San Juan, and others in Puerto Rico, who are not able to get their workers to help. They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort. 10,000 Federal workers now on Island doing a fantastic job.”