White House officials say a federal force of 10,000 people, including 7,000 troops, are helping Puerto Rico dig out of the devastation left by Hurricane Maria.
The U.S. Navy ship Comfort, a 1,000-bed hospital ship based in the U.S. state of Virginia, is scheduled to depart the U.S. mainland for the island Friday. Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert said Puerto Rico has 44 operational hospitals out of a total of 69 facilities.
The Pentagon has appointed Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan to lead all military hurricane response efforts in Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory.
WATCH: US Officials Say Damaged Infrastructure Slows Aid Distribution in Puerto Rico
Critics: Help too slow
Critics have accused the Trump administration of not responding more quickly to the disaster in the wake of the hurricane, which ravaged Puerto Rico on Sept. 17, taking out buildings, knocking out communications, and nearly destroying the island’s aging power grid.
On Thursday, Bossert defended the eight-day period between the declaration of an emergency in Puerto Rico and the naming of a leader for recovery efforts.
“It didn’t require a three-star general eight days ago,” he told reporters at a White House news briefing. Bossert also said some of the information he has heard on the news has been out of date.
“The coverage in some cases is giving the appearance that we are not moving fast enough,” he said.
Bigger, tougher than Katrina
Russel Honore, highly lauded for commanding the military response after another big storm, Hurricane Katrina in 2005, said the military deployments to Puerto Rico are at least four days too late.
Honore told National Public Radio that because of its distance from the mainland and the loss of its power grid, Puerto Rico “is a bigger and tougher mission than Katrina.”
Stung by the criticism, administration officials have emphasized the complexity of delivering aid to the storm-ravaged territory.
“This is an insular island, a…