Thursday, April 25, 2024

US Army’s top engineer ‘not satisfied’ with post-Maria recovery in Puerto Rico, but claims he can’t go any faster

It’s been 150 days since Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico, but the island still isn’t at a level of recovery that satisfies the U.S. Army’s top engineer.

“I am not satisfied that people in Puerto Rico should have to wait that much time for power,” Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite said Wednesday during an interview at the pentagon, “But I am telling you, there are no other knobs I can turn to go any faster.”

The commanding general of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers confirmed that 95 percent of the island will see energy restoration by the end of March. Hurricane Maria plunged Puerto Rico into darkness within hours of making landfall on September 20.

In mid-October, Puerto Rico’s governor Ricardo Rossello announced a benchmark of December 15 to reach 95 percent of electricity distribution on the island but this was not reached. Governor Rosello said he felt a lack of urgency on the part of the Army Corps of Engineers in getting supplies to the island in order to restore power but Semonite denied these claims, and added that while he respects the expectations set by the governor, the size of the storm and its aftermath has left a “gigantic mission.”

To date, 83.8 percent of the island, or over 1.2 million customers, have power in Puerto Rico. The task of reestablishing power to the island, though, changes as residents leave for the mainland.

“You might see me in 3 months from now and say, ‘You are only at 99.6 percent.’ Well, I am not going to run electricity up the side of a cliff to four houses that will probably never be rebuilt if that is the case,” Semonite said. “I don’t want to spend taxpayers’ money getting lines to houses that are never going to be rebuilt.”