The combination of aid activity to Puerto Rico from the U.S. Government and private aid groups has been so extensive, that I ran across over 300 blogs and websites with aid packages and places to volunteer or provide financial aid, and I had barely scratched the surface.
Although Department of Defense (DoD) officials have not released a breakdown of the various military forces thus far deployed to Puerto Rico, Gov. Ricardo Rossello said there were roughly 7,200 U.S. military personnel on the ground as of Oct. 2, according to a DoD press release, in addition to an estimated 3,000 non-military federal employees, for a total of more than 10,000 government workers involved in relief efforts.
These estimates the federal security workers, police and quasi-government energy and utility people who number in the thousands. The Civil Air Patrol has flown 500 hours of flights over the island providing emergency reports and assessing damage.
There are two hospital ships anchored offshore, one of which was the U.S. Comfort, the most modern and well equipped medical ship in the world. Over 40 military transport flights (Military transports such as the C17’s) have landed at San Juan’s airport as of September 20th and this number is probably understated. In addition, as outlined below, the US Aviation industry has done its’ usual great job of supplying aircraft and needed supplies to the island.
The number of portable generators and earth moving equipment provided by the US Government is not available at this point. Naval transport vessels delivered this equipment the old-fashioned way, via amphibious landing craft. But some critical equipment arrived via US Marine transport helicopters.
The situation is desperate primarily because of island-wide road blockages and lack of electric power. While these problems are gradually being overcome, we are still a long way off before things get even close to normal. Many towns are isolated and have to survive on their own until ground transport can reach them.
This article will recap highlights of support primarily from our aviation industry, and we will begin with our own community managed by the Port Authority.
Port Authority Puerto Rico Relief Efforts Continue
Dozens of Port Authority employees have journeyed to Puerto Rico over the past few weeks to assist the Commonwealth’s daunting recovery efforts after the unprecedented destruction of Hurricane Maria.
The agency’s commitment to the island’s recovery is ongoing. In early October, a second relief team of more than 70 Port Authority volunteers was deployed to Puerto Rico following the first group of 70 who arrived in late September and returned to the bistate region in mid-October. .
“In this time of tremendous hardship for the people of Puerto Rico, we’re grateful to be able to contribute any and all available resources to the reconstruction and recovery process,” said Chairman Kevin O’Toole in a statement. “We stand ready to assist wherever we can.”
Cleanup, recovery and rebuilding efforts have included repairs and debris removal from San Juan Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport and residential buildings, search and-rescue operations, and security support, among other forms of assistance.
The deployment includes members of the agency’s Aviation, Port and Engineering departments, as well as the Port Authority Police Department. This group traveled to Puerto Rico September 28-29, and most are scheduled to stay until October 13. As part of a mutual aid network responding to natural disasters, Port Authority officials were asked to share manpower and technical skills after the storm left Puerto Rico in ruins.
“You can’t help but be moved by the devastation the people of Puerto Rico have suffered,” said Steven Pawlak of the Office of Emergency Management, part of the Port Authority’s response team. “We’re doing everything we can, using whatever it takes to help our friends here restore some semblance of normalcy to their lives.”
The response of agency staff during a disaster – regardless of the region impacted – is always the same: It’s swift, organized, and guided by an untiring dedication to the public.
Using their skills and expertise to help restore normal operations, Aviation staff work to repair a damaged terminal roof at San Juan’s San Juan Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport.
FedEx and UPS Step Up to Provide Hurricane Relief
Transport and logistics giants donate cash and transportation services to aid survivors of Maria.
Transport and logistics giants FedEx Corp. and UPS Inc. have stepped in to provide extensive disaster relief aid packages and support following the epic trio of storms that ravaged Caribbean islands in September.
Memphis, Tenn.-based FedEx has pledged $3 million in cash and transportation support, leveraging its logistics network to help numerous relief agencies respond to the disasters. The company works with the agencies to deliver supplies such as water treatment systems, blankets, cleanup kits, and comfort kits, FedEx said.
Atlanta-based UPS also announced wide-ranging disaster relief initiatives, including a commitment of $2 million in aid. In addition, the company flew air freighters to Puerto Rico under contract with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to deliver Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs) to victims and is coordinating with the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) to deliver tarps, hygiene kits, mosquito nets, liquid containers, and shelter tool kits to storm survivors in Cuba.
JetBlue Teams With Atlas Air World-Wide to Deliver Tons of Supplies
JetBlue, the largest airline in Puerto Rico, along with Atlas Air Worldwide, have sent over 110 tons of supplies to Puerto Rico in recovery efforts following Hurricane Maria. JetBlue’s initiative, 100×35 JetBlue, is a commitment to launch 35 initiatives in the next 100 days. This will help support JetBlue employees and communities impacted in Puerto Rico.
100X35 JetBlue is in reference to Puerto Rico’s 100×35 mile size. This program will continue to help provide residents with needed supplies and goods, as well as rebuilding efforts.
The airline has taken donations from organizations such as the American Red Cross and Food Bank for New York City. Atlas Air partnered with JetBlue by operating a Boeing 747 between New York and San Juan. While Atlas Air is doing the transporting, JetBlue is handling the logistics of the supplies in Puerto Rico.
“We’ve been sending relief supplies to Puerto Rico since the first day flights were allowed onto the island following Hurricane Maria,” said Icema Gibbs, director corporate social responsibility, JetBlue.
Horses, Zoo Animals and Dairy Cows Receive Relief from JFK
The local airport\airline community has come together to support the survivors of the hurricanes in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico. One of those individuals we were lucky enough to meet is Dr. Scarlette Gotwals of Horse America who is focused on providing relief to the horses, zoo animals and dairy cows in Puerto Rico. Horse America is based out of Oley, PA. They are a concierge service that coordinates logistics for horses that are using air transport. Scarlette is using her time and talent to coordinate the logistics of procuring feed and supplies, arranging transport and ensuring boots on the ground in PR are able to deliver to the needy farms. She can be found staging operations out of The Ark at JFK, on the phone and emailing constantly; trying to find space on airplanes, scheduling truckers, making sure the pallets can be built and loaded onto the planes all on the schedule of the airlines.
Scarlette is working with the support of Eric Cintas from JetBlue, Phil Jensen from WFS, Jonathan Cutler from RanchAid.org, David Fink from Heidel Farm, John Cuticelli from The Ark, the USDA, FEMA and many others to get the impossible done. Her compassion for the animals living in dire conditions and her tenacity for logistics make her unstoppable.
Collectively, what these people did was nothing short of amazing, according to Dr. Scarlette Gotwals
“A hundred things had to fall into place,” Gotwals said. “It was an incredible process. It was done by people from across the country. I had never met in person any one of the persons I just worked with, but we all just rolled up our sleeves and dug in together and everyone fit their roll. The other people knew each other, but I was new on the scene and my focus was just a logistics and persistence of finding flight space.”
“Phil Jensen and I were talking about five to 10 times a day because we kept trying to get charters,” she said.
After a few days of frustration, a break came through when JetBlue Airlines sponsored a 747 flight with Atlas Air as the carrier. JetBlue’s Eric Cintas and Renee Roth were particularly instrumental in providing the flight.
“JetBlue recognizing the need to help the horses that hadn’t gotten any feed and allowing us the honor of being part of their charity flight was just incredible because it’s very expensive to fly,” Gotwals said.
They have already flown down 50,000 pounds of feed and supplies. The mission continues as long as the need exists. They are staging another 26,000 pounds waiting for belly space to become available. For information on how to help provide relief to the animals, contact www.ranchaid.org.
US Civil Air Patrol (CAP) Wrapping Up Maria Mission
Twenty-two days into the massive federal response to Hurricane Maria, Civil Air Patrol is beginning to ramp down its air operations in Puerto Rico and the nearby U.S. Virgin Islands. CAP has been supporting flying operations for the full-scale disaster relief mission in Puerto Rico since Sept. 22, two days after Maria made landfall on the Caribbean island.
“We’re starting to wrap up our current mission in Puerto Rico,” said John Desmarais, CAP’s director of operations. Nearly 250 members from the Puerto Rico Wing and 20 other CAP wings and regions across the U.S. have been involved in the mission, providing local first responders, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other U.S. government agencies with aerial photography to document damage on the islands.
CAP aircraft from the mainland are expected to return home this weekend, but flights are expected to continue through the early part of next week — likely supported by Puerto Rico Wing planes and aircrews with minimal augmentation by mainland crews.
To date, CAP aircrews have flown nearly 500 hours on 236 sorties over the affected areas in both Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. On those flights, CAP photographers have taken 62,721 aerial images, which were provided to FEMA and emergency personnel to help focus on recovery efforts.
Puerto Rico took a direct hit from the Category 5 storm two weeks after a previous encounter with Hurricane Irma, another powerful storm that tracked just north of the island on Sept. 7. Irma greatly affected the U.S. Virgin Islands, much as Maria did Puerto Rico.
Maria’s impact on Puerto Rico’s infrastructure has posed challenges for CAP members, particularly the local CAP wing’s nearly 400 adult officers. One is Capt. Luis J. Herrera, the wing’s inspector general, who lives in Bayamon, just south of San Juan.
“The last four weeks have been challenging, to say the least,” he said. “Power, water, cell phones, everything that we took for granted has been taken away from us. We did prepare for a hurricane, but we weren’t prepared for a disaster.
“Hurricane Maria has been the worst event with the biggest devastation I have ever experienced,” Herrera said.Slowly but surely, progress is being made toward recovery.
“My family and I are living within a schedule that we’ve created,” Herrera said. “We have a portable generator that can be run for several hours a day. So we run it several times a day to try to keep the fridge as cold as possible, to charge our electronic devices from time to time, and to turn some fans on to try to cool down the house a little.”
Herrera said his CAP training has prepared him and others to adapt and respond during such emergencies. “Some of our members lost their jobs, their houses were damaged, and others lost everything,” he said. “And yet they reported for duty, day after day, volunteering their time to help.
“In CAP, we train for situations like this, and when the time comes we are honored to step forward and be able to help. In a sense, serving with CAP in this emergency has helped me to focus my thoughts into productive ideas that can contribute to the mission’s goals,” he said.
In addition to air operations, CAP members have also volunteered in shelter centers in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. That work is expected to continue for weeks, even months to come.
Civil Air Patrol, the longtime all-volunteer U.S. Air Force auxiliary, is the newest member of the Air Force’s Total Force. In this role, CAP operates a fleet of 560 aircraft, performs about 90 percent of continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center and is credited by the AFRCC with saving an average of 80 lives annually. CAP’s 57,000 members also perform homeland security, disaster relief and drug interdiction missions at the request of federal, state and local agencies. CAP also plays a leading role in aerospace/STEM education, and its members serve as mentors to 24,000 young people participating in CAP’s Cadet Programs. Visit www.GoCivilAirPatrol.com for more information.
Air Partner in Aid Flights for Hurricane Relief Effort
Air Partner has carried out a number of urgent freight charters across the Caribbean in recent weeks to support the relief effort in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
The flights were operated on behalf of governments, NGOs, charities and commercial entities to a number of islands in the region, including Puerto Rico, Cuba and Guadeloupe.
Cargo flown includes generators, four-wheel drive vehicles, bottled water and humanitarian aid, which was required to reached those affected in the most efficient and time-effective way possible.
Aircraft used ranged from private jets to Antonov AN-124s, one of which was in fact among the first aircraft to land at San Juan Airport in Puerto Rico after it reopened.
“Since many islands suffered communication difficulties in the immediate aftermath of the storms, Air Partner’s representatives on the ground closely co-ordinated cargo delivery, aircraft loading, aircraft handling and landing requests,” the company said.
“With aircraft availability changing at very short notice, forward planning was crucial to ensuring the successful operation of these flights.”
Lufthansa adds support with dedicated freighter
Lufthansa Group has deployed an MD-11 freighter from Frankfurt Airport to Aguadilla, on the West Coast of Puerto Rico, to join the humanitarian efforts throughout the island after the devastating effects of Hurricane Maria.
Situated in this region is a Lufthansa Technical Site where 400 colleagues are helping local communities nearby.
The Lufthansa Cargo aircraft flew into Rafael Hernández International Airport in Puerto Rico after a refueling stopover at Atlanta Airport. The freighter was loaded with 80 tons of drinking water, apparel, food provisions and hygienic supplies for the relief effort.
The Lufthansa Group is working closely with the local US authorities to obtain the necessary coordination and support for the comprehensive relief-aid operation. In Germany, participants of this relief effort have predominantly been Hassia, the Metro Group, as well as LSG Skychefs with donations.
Kühne & Nagel, Georgi and Orgalog helped with transport services. The project was organized and implemented by HelpAlliance, the charitable aid organization of the Lufthansa Group.