People line up with gas cans to get fuel from a gas station, in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Monday, Sept. 25, 2017. The U.S. ramped up its response Monday to the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico while the Trump administration sought to blunt criticism that its response to Hurricane Maria has fallen short of it efforts in Texas and Florida after the recent hurricanes there. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
By MICHAEL BIESECKER
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration said Tuesday it was sending a flotilla of ships and thousands more military personnel to Puerto Rico to address the growing humanitarian crisis caused by Hurricane Maria.
The administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Brock Long, said the devastation wrought by the Category 4 storm presented logistical challenges, with badly damaged airports and seaports making it difficult to get aid and personnel to the stricken island.
Long said 16 Navy and Coast Guard ships were in the waters around Puerto Rico, with 10 more ships on the way. They include the USNS Comfort, a Navy hospital ship. Planes and ships were also bringing in a military force numbering in the thousands to help distribute aid. Military aircraft were dropping food and water to areas of the island still isolated and unable to receive help by road, he said.
“We’re dramatically increasing the federal footprint that’s there,” Long said, speaking outside the White House.
The shift, six days after the storm made landfall, came amid a growing chorus of criticism that the federal response so far had been insufficient and fallen far short of the responses to hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
The Pentagon said the number of active duty military personnel would grow from about 2,500 to possibly double that number in the next several days.
An Army brigadier general will take over command of the military response, which will include