U.S. President Donald Trump temporarily lifted restrictions on foreign shipping from the U.S. mainland to Puerto Rico on Thursday to help get supplies quickly to the U.S. territory as it reels from the devastation of Hurricane Maria.
But even so, the island still faces huge logistical hurdles to distribute badly needed food, fuel and drinking water. Most of the Caribbean island’s 3.4 million people also are without electricity.
Brock Long, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), said he was dissatisfied with the federal response but that relief operations had been hampered by damage to the air traffic control system, airports and ports.
Shipping containers have been piling up at Puerto Rico’s ports in the aftermath of Maria, which struck on Sept. 20, causing widespread flooding and major damage to homes, roads and other infrastructure.
Puerto Rico’s governor, Ricardo Rossello, had sought a waiver of the Jones Act, which limits shipping between U.S. ports to U.S. owned-and-operated vessels, to ensure there was no impediment to bringing in supplies.
The waiver, which will be in force for 10 days and will cover all products shipped to Puerto Rico, was signed on Thursday morning by acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke, the DHS said in a statement.
Unlike Brock, Duke told reporters on Thursday she was “very satisfied” with the federal response to Maria. “The relief effort is under control. It is proceeding very well,” she said.