The commander of U.S. Army North at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston who is now in charge of the massive military effort in Puerto Rico shared the very latest on the island's situation on Tuesday.
The Pentagon appointed Lieutenant General Jeffrey Buchanan to oversee all land-based operations on the island. He was deployed about two weeks ago. On Tuesday, he held a satellite interview alongside FEMA representative Alejandro De La Campa. Lt. Gen. Buchannan said that there are currently 13,485 military service-members and 72 aircrafts assigned to help Puerto Ricans.
He also noted that only 16 percent of Puerto Ricans have power and there are many people still without water. But Lt. Gen. Buchanan anticipates improvements in the next few weeks.
"My instinct is that we're going to get water to everybody relativity soon," Buchanan said. "But as far as stable electrical power, it's going to be months instead of weeks."
The FEMA representative added that, alongside the U.S. government, private organizations have been a huge help in distributing resources.
"There are over 60 private, non-profit organizations that are doing an outstanding job here in Puerto Rico, to a point that they're providing 100,000 meals on a daily basis that are distributed around the island, around the municipalities," said De La Campa, who also explained that FEMA and the military are in communication with all of the municipalities on the island. "We are providing water and food on a regular basis through areas that we established. This is all in coordination with the mayors because they are the ones who know locations and know where do they have families that may not be reachable by ground because they have landslides or bridges that have collapsed."
Lt. Gen. Buchanan said that there are some challenges geographically but they are making progress in clearing roads to get more of the supplies through. He said that they've cleared roads around the perimeter of the island but there is more work to do in the central and eastern parts of the island.
"We're either plowing mud off the roads that's occurred there cause it's a landslide or potentially getting out there with a chainsaw and cutting up trees that are crossing the road and just moving the debris off to the side of the road," Buchanan said. "We've had great support from people across the mainland and I'd encourage you all to continue supporting FEMA, the American Red Cross, all different kinds of NGO's as they help the people of Puerto Rico get back on their feet."