On Friday afternoon, FEMA held a conference call briefing giving updates of the recovery efforts on the island. Lt. Col. James DeLapp, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Recovery Field Office, Puerto Rico Air National Guard Assistant Adjutant Brig. Gen. Wayne Zimmet, and Assistant HHS Secreatary for Preparedness and Response Bob Kadlec gave updates of the situation.
Lt. Col. James DeLapp, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Recovery Field Office
DeLapp started off the call by explaining that the Army Corps of Engineers are working on behalf of FEMA and their priorities are temporary power restoration, debris removal, and provide temporary roofing.
The Lieutenant Colonel stated that the Corps has installed 23 generators, with an additional 10 in progress, and have received an additional 177 generators to install on the island.
Regarding the debris removal mission, the initial estimates are around 6.5 million cubic yards of debris that the Corps has estimated. As of right now, there are three critical routes that the Corps has been assigned to clear and there will be more clearance missions after these are completed.
On the Temporary roofing mission, they have received first shipment of roofing material and installed first blue roof on the Multi medical hospital in San Juan and 5 other locations. The Corps has been approved 1,733 rights of entry to install blue roofs in several locations, including 374 homes.
When asked by reporters about the power line system, DeLapp outlined the Corps mission: “Army Corps’ mission assignment is to repair power grid with PREPA to come up with a joint plan to do the repairs. Enhancing the existing capabilities with contracts in place in the state to utilize those to help augment their workforce and bring additional resources in to get power restored as soon as possible.”
While answering the question, DeLapp mentioned that the repairs to get the power back are ongoing. PREPA has around 230 crews working around the island, and the Corps will likely double the amount of crews in the coming weeks. Until the contract has been awarded, there was no specific timeline given by DeLapp of when the power will be restored.
Repair and power back is ongoing. PREPA around 230 crews, Corps will likely double it in the coming weeks after contract is awarded.
Puerto Rico Air National Guard Assistant Adjutant Brig. Gen. Wayne Zimmet
General Wayne Zimmet provided an update where he mentioned that they were able to recover 100% of first responders on the surrounding islands. The main priority for the National Guard is to get the radar up and going from Punta Salinas and continue to restore the airports around the islands.
Addressing the help the National Guard is getting, around 40 state agreements are sending personnel to help, roughly around 4,500 national guards. During the relief efforts, the National Guard has completed over 550 life missions around the area, and as of right now they are doing 20 missions a day.
When asked about the progress on the island, Zimmet noted that gas stations have lowered and there is progress in the situation on the island.
Assistant HHS Secretary for Preparedness and Response Bob Kadlec
Kadlec mentioned that they are continuing the efforts to saving lives and restoring healthcare services. Last couple of days they have been confronted with the fact that they recognized there is going to be a long-term challenge regarding the power situation.
Addressing the limits of the generators used by the hospitals, there is a 911 system set up when there are issues with critical care patients they are going to be moving them to the Comfort where they can be treated. Disaster medical teams are in those areas to provide help.
Kadlec was asked if there has been an increase in fatalities due to the lack of power in the hospitals, but he stated that there has not been any bump in the numbers.
Adding to his statement, Kadlec stated that these generators are generally not expected to last week or months. The expectation is that they will fail and they will be monitoring the fuel.
FEMA is going to create generator response teams to check on them and fix them if at risk of failure, with the anticipation that failures will happen occasionally. For the intensive care unit, the intent is to move them out to Centro Medico or the Comfort.
A reporter posed the question of the total cost for recovery for Puerto Rico, the answer was that it is too early to know the full cost for recovery for Puerto Rico.