Texas has sent over 12,000 troops, in addition to medical units and cargo planes, to assist FEMA with recovery efforts in Puerto Rico. The troops are being led by Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan, the Commander of U.S. Army North at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston.
San Antonio Express-News reporter Sig Christenson embedded with Buchanan’s troops in Puerto Rico to bring news about these efforts to the mainland. Christenson says people in Puerto Rico are searching for water, soft drinks, and basic foodstuff.
One of the troops’ main objectives was to fortify a dam in San Juan. Christenson says a big problem is that the water is at a high level and stressing the dam, because it rains almost every day.
“As one of the engineers told me, you know, it’s a race against time,” Christenson says. “They had no guarantees on being able to hold the dam.”
Another part of Buchanan’s mission is delivering supplies. “I’m told that the supplies are getting to people in the 78 municipalities, but there are lots of villages and places in the interior and the very mountainous interior that are very difficult to reach,” Christenson says.
Christenson says there’s a distinct lack of communication right now in Puerto Rico.
“Most people that we found in our reporting had no idea of how to even get in touch with FEMA on how to file a claim,” he says. “All of those are basic things that, if you are in Houston and you had a flooding incident, that you are going to end up having to file a claim and you are basically told where you can do it.”
He says, “If so many people in Puerto Rico are having such a difficult time doing even something as simple as filing a claim, you can bet that things are going to be very, very difficult for a long time.”
Written by Jen Rice.