There's Thousands Of Tons Of Aid Sitting In Puerto Rico Ports — But There's No Way To Deliver It

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Three thousand shipping containers filled with food, water, and medicine have been stuck in a port on Puerto Rico for days.

Damaged roads and trucks, no fuel, and no drivers combined to leave the aid supplies waiting in the San Juan port.

Fuel shortages and communication problems have dogged the island since Hurricane Maria hit, and authorities had been unable to arrange for the aid to be distributed to the half million people it could help, CBS reported.

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosello told BuzzFeed News on Tuesday that one of the challenges of the disaster was that civil employees — like bus drivers and police officers — hadn't shown up to work as they dealt with blocked roads and destroyed homes.

Hector Retamal / AFP / Getty Images

“We need bus drivers and buses to deliver crates,” he said.

Cell towers being down also makes it near impossible to contact drivers and workers about the containers being ready for delivery.

“When we say we that we don't have truck drivers, we mean that we have not been able to contact them,” Rosello told CNN.

Shipping company Crowley told CNN about its 3,000 containers full of emergency supplies including construction material, even cars, left waiting in the San Juan port. Only 4% of the containers had been distributed from the port so far, CNN reported.

“The problem has been with the logistics, the parts of the supply chain that move the cargo from our terminal to the shelves or to the tables of the people in Puerto Rico,” Crowley's vice president in Puerto Rico, Jose Ayala said Wednesday.

“This hurricane was catastrophic,” said Ayala.

Crowley's head office has not yet responded to a request from BuzzFeed News.

More FEMA workers, US troops, and volunteers arrived on Wednesday for disaster relief.

Michael Brown, who served as the head of FEMA before he was terminated during the botched response to Hurricane Katrina, spoke on CNN Thursday morning about the need for personnel to distribute goods.

“If I … had a team of investigators, I would find out how long did it take to do the assessments of the ports and the assessments of the docks docks. It's one thing to get the ships into the ports. It's another thing to get the cargo off the ships on to the dock. Now people should be asking now, which I think is a legitimate question, is where are the personnel now to start doing the distribution?” said Brown.

Rosello said in a press conference on Thursday morning that FEMA and the National Guard were able to drop off urgent food and water supplies across the island on Wednesday, in “nearly all the regions of Puerto Rico.”

Hector Retamal / AFP / Getty Images

The Trump administration lifted the waiver on the Jones Act, a shipping rule which states that only US-flagged ships can make deliveries to US ports without large tariffs, on Thursday morning, after a request from the Governor.

“The president, has answered all our responses and done it quickly,” said Rosello, echoing Trump's comments that because of Puerto Rico's geography, it's much more difficult to get federal aid supplies to the island as they must be flown in or sent by boat.

“And that delays the process a bit,” said Rosello.

But Department of Homeland Security officials noted on Wednesday that the major issue wasn't ships arriving but instead getting aid from those ships to where it was needed.

“The most significant challenge is disruption to move within the island,” a DHS official told reporters earlier Wednesday.


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