Puerto Rico emergency manager, military leader to depart

By Allen Cone  |  Nov. 11, 2017 at 2:27 PM
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Nov. 11 (UPI) -- The head of Puerto Rico's emergency management agency is resigning and the Army general in charge of the U.S. military's response to Hurricane Maria is leaving the operation.

On Friday, Gov. Ricardo Rossello said Abner Gómez resigned as the island's emergency management director, effective Saturday, and Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan will be reassigned outside the island next week.

Rossello did not give a reason for Gomez's resignation but the island's El Nuevo Dia newspaper reported that he took a two-week vacation shortly after Maria made landfall on Sept. 20.

In his resignation letter, Gomez said he was resigning because the government had mostly delegated recovery efforts to someone else. Hector Pesquera, secretary of Puerto Rico's Department of Public Safety, is taking over the emergency duties.

Buchanan, a three-star general and commander of U.S. Army North (5th Army), arrived in late September. He was in charge of leading the military's efforts to improve distribution networks of relief supplies on the island.

The governor said a two-star general will replace Buchanan.

"The cessation of Gen. Buchanan's work does not mean that the military is leaving," Rossello said in a statement. "His departure marks a positive transition. We have not finished the recovery, but there is progress in the missions that have been carried out."

Buchanan told reporters "from my perspective, we've moved out of the crisis. We're moving out of response and most places are moving on toward recovery. ... FEMA is going to be here for very much the long term and the rebuilding effort, and we in the military generally don't do that."

Buchanan said federal agencies, including the Federal Emergency Management Administration, had distributed 51 million gallons of water and 20 million meals and cared for 5,000 sick residents.

As of Saturday, 2,169 people remain in shelters, according to a Puerto Rican government website.

On Thursday, a transmission line failed after being restored, dropping power generation to 18 percent, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority said. The governor posted on Twitter on Saturday the line was repaired and there was 44.5 percent power generation.

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