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U.S. response in Puerto Rico pales next to actions after Haiti quake

By Aaron C. Davis, Dan Lamothe, Ed O'Keefe

September 28, 2017 at 7:55 PM

Carmen De Jesus uses a flashlight at the Moradas Las Teresas Elderly House, where about two hundred elderly people live without electricity following damages caused by Hurricane Maria in Carolina, Puerto Rico September 30, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
A woman stands next to her apartment door at the Moradas Las Teresas Elderly House, where about two hundred elderly people live without electricity following damages caused by Hurricane Maria in Carolina, Puerto Rico, September 30, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
In this image released by the US Coast Guard (USCG), crewmembers from USCG Cutter Elm and members from Sector San Juan, Puerto Rico, fill portable diesel tanks in Vieques Island, Puerto Rico, for distribution to the victims of Hurricane Maria on September 30, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / US Coast Guard / Michael De NYSE / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / US Coast Guard / Petty Officer 1st Class Michael De Nyse" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS MICHAEL DE NYSE/AFP/Getty Images
People buy ice at a local ice plant in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, September 30, 2017. US military and emergency relief teams ramped up their aid efforts for Puerto Rico amid growing criticism of the response to the hurricanes which ripped through the Caribbean island. / AFP PHOTO / Ricardo ARDUENGORICARDO ARDUENGO/AFP/Getty Images
TOPSHOT - Coffins that were washed downhill from the Lares Municipal Cemetery by a landslide are seen in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Lares, Puerto Rico, September 30, 2017. US military and emergency relief teams ramped up their aid efforts for Puerto Rico amid growing criticism of the response to the hurricanes which ripped through the Caribbean island. / AFP PHOTO / Ricardo ARDUENGORICARDO ARDUENGO/AFP/Getty Images
A car drives past damaged trees after Hurricane Maria in Morovis, Puerto Rico, on Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017. President Donald Trump, under rising criticism for the federal response to hurricane-wrecked Puerto Rico, lashed out at San Juan's mayor Saturday for her "poor leadership ability" and said some residents of the U.S. commonwealth "want everything to be done for them." Photographer: John Taggart/Bloomberg
Workers remove dead chickens from damanged cages after Hurricane Maria at Tofrescos chicken farm in Morovis, Puerto Rico, on Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017. President Donald Trump, under rising criticism for the federal response to hurricane-wrecked Puerto Rico, lashed out at San Juan's mayor Saturday for her "poor leadership ability" and said some residents of the U.S. commonwealth "want everything to be done for them." Photographer: John Taggart/Bloomberg
A man stands inside of a destroyed supermarket by Hurricane Maria in Salinas, Puerto Rico, September 29, 2017 REUTERS/Alvin Baez TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
TOA BAJA, PUERTO RICO - SEPTEMBER 29: A damaged home is seen as people deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Maria on September 29, 2017 in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico experienced widespread damage including most of the electrical, gas and water grid as well as agriculture after Hurricane Maria, a category 4 hurricane, passed through. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
People sweep mud from inside an affected business in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, in Comerio, Puerto Rico, September 29, 2017. US military and emergency relief teams ramped up their aid efforts for Puerto Rico amid growing criticism of the response to the hurricanes which ripped through the Caribbean island. / AFP PHOTO / Ricardo ARDUENGORICARDO ARDUENGO/AFP/Getty Images
People take a bath in a spring under a tarp on a hillside destroyed by hurricane Maria in Yabucoa, eastern Puerto Rico, on September 29, 2017. US military and emergency relief teams ramped up their aid efforts for Puerto Rico amid growing criticism of the response to the hurricanes which ripped through the Caribbean island. / AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMALHECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images
A woman combs her hair after taking a bath on the Cuyon River in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, in Coamo, Puerto Rico, September 29, 2017. US military and emergency relief teams ramped up their aid efforts for Puerto Rico amid growing criticism of the response to the hurricanes which ripped through the Caribbean island. / AFP PHOTO / Ricardo ARDUENGORICARDO ARDUENGO/AFP/Getty Images
Mandatory Credit: Photo by Thais Llorca/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock (9100227n) People affected by Hurricane Maria receive supplies in San Juan, Puerto Rico, 29 September 2017. Ten days after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico as a Category 4 storm, the island is dealing with a humanitarian crisis as millions are still without electricity, water and basic necessities. Hurricane Maria aftermath in Puerto Rico, San Juan - 29 Sep 2017
An elderly woman stands after receiving food during a supplies distributions at an area affected by Hurricane Maria in Salinas, Puerto Rico, September 29, 2017 REUTERS/Alvin Baez
DORADO, PUERTO RICO - SEPTEMBER 29: Hurricane survivors lineup at a gas station to fuel up vehicles as they deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Maria on September 29, 2017 in Dorado, Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico experienced widespread damage including most of the electrical, gas and water grid as well as agriculture after Hurricane Maria, a category 4 hurricane, passed through. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
US and Puerto Rican flags wave next to a highway 30 in eastern Puerto Rico, on September 29, 2017. US military and emergency relief teams ramped up their aid efforts for Puerto Rico amid growing criticism of the response to the hurricanes which ripped through the Caribbean island. / AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMALHECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images
Destroyed communities are seen in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Toa Alta, Puerto Rico, Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017. The aftermath of the powerful storm has resulted in a near-total shutdown of the U.S. territory?s economy that could last for weeks and has many people running seriously low on cash and worrying that it will become even harder to survive on this storm-ravaged island. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Debris is seen strewn around cattle and destroyed vegetation in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017. The aftermath of the powerful storm has resulted in a near-total shutdown of the U.S. territory?s economy that could last for weeks and has many people running seriously low on cash and worrying that it will become even harder to survive on this storm-ravaged island. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Damaged boats are seen in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Dorado, Puerto Rico, Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017. The aftermath of the powerful storm has resulted in a near-total shutdown of the U.S. territory?s economy that could last for weeks and has many people running seriously low on cash and worrying that it will become even harder to survive on this storm-ravaged island. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
A municipal government worker fills containers with drinking water for residents outside the Juan Ramon Loubriel stadium in the wake of Hurricane Maria in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017. The aftermath of the powerful storm has resulted in a near-total shutdown of the U.S. territory?s economy that could last for weeks and has many people running seriously low on cash and worrying that it will become even harder to survive on this storm-ravaged island. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)
Puerto Rico Power Authority workers repair power lines in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, in Loiza, Puerto Rico, September 28, 2017. The US island territory, working without electricity, is struggling to dig out and clean up from its disastrous brush with the hurricane, blamed for at least 33 deaths across the Caribbean. / AFP PHOTO / Ricardo ARDUENGORICARDO ARDUENGO/AFP/Getty Images
Javier places on his house next to a flag of Puerto Rico, a placard that read in spanish "Voy a ti Puerto Rico" (I come to you Puerto Rico), in Yabucoa, in the east of Puerto Rico, on September 28, 2017. The US island territory, working without electricity, is struggling to dig out and clean up from its disastrous brush with hurricane Maria, blamed for at least 33 deaths across the Caribbean. / AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMALHECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images
View of a destroyed house in Yabucoa, in the east of Puerto Rico, on September 28, 2017. The US island territory, working without electricity, is struggling to dig out and clean up from its disastrous brush with the hurricane, blamed for at least 33 deaths across the Caribbean. / AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMALHECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images
SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO - SEPTEMBER 28: People line up to get on a Royal Caribbean International, Adventure of the Seas, relief boat that is sailing to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida with evacuees that are fleeing after the island was hit by Hurricane Maria on September 28, 2017 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico experienced widespread damage including most of the electrical, gas and water grid as well as agriculture after Hurricane Maria, a category 4 hurricane, passed through. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
This US Navy handout photo released September 28, 2017,shows Marines assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 162, embarked aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3), and area residents as they unload food from an MV-22 Osprey aircraft in Jayuya, Puerto Rico on September 27, 2017. Kearsarge is assisting with relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. The US Department of Defense is supporting the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the lead federal agency, in helping those affected by Hurricane Maria to minimize suffering and is one component of the overall whole-of-government response effort. / AFP PHOTO / US NAVY / Ryre ARCIAGA / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / US NAVY/RYRE ARCIAGA/HANDOUT" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS RYRE ARCIAGA/AFP/Getty Images
Hospital employees sort donated canned food to deliver to a nearby shelter for hurricane victims, in Catano, Puerto Rico, Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017. The aftermath of the powerful storm has resulted in a near-total shutdown of the U.S. territory?s economy that could last for weeks and has many people running seriously low on cash and worrying that it will become even harder to survive on this storm-ravaged island. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
People charge their mobile devices outside a Wal-Mart Stores Inc. location in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017. Trump�ordered the Jones Act to be waived for shipments to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico immediately�at the request of Governor�Ricardo Rossello, White House press secretary�Sarah Sanders�said Thursday. Photographer: John Taggart/Bloomberg
SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO - SEPTEMBER 28: People line up to get into a Walmart store as they deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Maria on September 28, 2017 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico experienced widespread damage including most of the electrical, gas and water grid as well as agriculture after Hurricane Maria, a category 4 hurricane, passed through. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
People queue to get money from an ATM after the island was hit by Hurricane Maria, in San Juan, Puerto Rico September 28, 2017. REUTERS/Alvin Baez
TOA BAJA, PUERTO RICO - SEPTEMBER 28: Hurricane survivors receive food and water being given out by volunteers and municipal police as they deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Maria on September 28, 2017 in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico experienced widespread damage including most of the electrical, gas and water grid as well as agriculture after Hurricane Maria, a category 4 hurricane, passed through. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
SAN JUAN PUERTO RICO ? SEPTEMBER 28: People waits for charter flights out of San Juan at Isla Grande Airport. More than a week after the event, recovery is slow. Hurricane Maria passed through Puerto Rico leaving behind a path of destruction across the national territory. (Photo by Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo for The Washington Post)
SAN JUAN PUERTO RICO ? SEPTEMBER 28: Help get in in private jets trough Isla Grande Airport. More than a week after the event, recovery is slow. Hurricane Maria passed through Puerto Rico leaving behind a path of destruction across the national territory. (Photo by Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo for The Washington Post)
SAN JUAN PUERTO RICO ? SEPTEMBER 29: San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, hands in solar lamps to La Perla Residents. Hurricane Maria passed through Puerto Rico leaving behind a path of destruction across the national territory. (Photo by Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo for The Washington Post)
SAN JUAN PUERTO RICO ? SEPTEMBER 28: San Juan Mayor hand out LED lights to La Perla Residents. La Perla one of the poorest and most violent neighborhood of Puerto Rico struggles with safety issues in the night without electricity . More than a week after the event, recovery is slow. Hurricane Maria passed through Puerto Rico leaving behind a path of destruction across the national territory. (Photo by Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo for The Washington Post)
SAN JUAN PUERTO RICO ? SEPTEMBER 28: San Juan Mayor hand out LED lights to La Perla Residents. La Perla one of the poorest and most violent neighborhood of Puerto Rico struggles with safety issues in the night without electricity . More than a week after the event, recovery is slow. Hurricane Maria passed through Puerto Rico leaving behind a path of destruction across the national territory. (Photo by Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo for The Washington Post)
SAN JUAN PUERTO RICO ? SEPTEMBER 28: A family fill up water bottles at a cistern truck in La Perla. La Perla one of the poorest and most violent neighborhood of Puerto Rico struggles with safety issues in the night without electricity . More than a week after the event, recovery is slow. Hurricane Maria passed through Puerto Rico leaving behind a path of destruction across the national territory. (Photo by Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo for The Washington Post)
COROZAL, PUERTO RICO - SEPTEMBER 27: Yolanda Negron and her daughter Yolymar Bernard salvage what they can from their home that was destroyed when Hurricane Maria passed through on September 27, 2017 in Corozal, Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico experienced widespread, severe damage including most of the electrical, gas and water grids as well as agricultural destruction after Hurricane Maria, a category 4 hurricane, passed through. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
A toppled electronic billboard lies atop a house one week after the passage of Hurricane Maria in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on September 27, 2017. The US island territory, working without electricity, is struggling to dig out and clean up from its disastrous brush with the hurricane, blamed for at least 33 deaths across the Caribbean. / AFP PHOTO / Ricardo ARDUENGORICARDO ARDUENGO/AFP/Getty Images
People wait at a gas station to fill up their fuel containers, in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, in San Juan, Puerto Rico September 27, 2017. Picture taken September 27, 2017. REUTERS/Alvin Baez
TOPSHOT - A mural that reads in Spanish "Boriken is alive" is seen a week after the passage of Hurricane Maria in Cayey, Puerto Rico, on September 27, 2017. Boriken is the pre-Columbian Taino name of today's Puerto Rico. The US island territory, working without electricity, is struggling to dig out and clean up from its disastrous brush with the hurricane, blamed for at least 33 deaths across the Caribbean. / AFP PHOTO / Ricardo ARDUENGORICARDO ARDUENGO/AFP/Getty Images
Mario Soler Sr. (R) and his son Mario Soler Jr. survey their destroyed plantain field one week after the passage of Hurricane Maria in Salinas, Puerto Rico, on September 27, 2017. The US island territory, working without electricity, is struggling to dig out and clean up from its disastrous brush with the hurricane, blamed for at least 33 deaths across the Caribbean. / AFP PHOTO / Ricardo ARDUENGORICARDO ARDUENGO/AFP/Getty Images
COROZAL, PUERTO RICO - SEPTEMBER 27: People cross a bridge what was destroyed when Hurricane Maria passed through on September 27, 2017 in Corozal, Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico experienced widespread, severe damage including most of the electrical, gas and water grids as well as agricultural destruction after Hurricane Maria, a category 4 hurricane, passed through. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Ruby Rodriguez, 8, crosses through the Rio San Lorenzo de Morovis with her family, since the bridge that crosses the river was swept away by Hurricane Maria, in Morovis, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017. The were returning to their home after visiting family on the other side. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
COROZAL, PUERTO RICO - SEPTEMBER 27: People bathe in spring water since they have no running water in their homes since Hurricane Maria passed through on September 27, 2017 in Corozal, Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico experienced widespread damage including most of the electrical, gas and water grid as well as agriculture after Hurricane Maria, a category 4 hurricane, passed through. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
A resident bails water from a flooded home in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, in Catano, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017. A week since the passing of Maria many are still waiting for help from anyone from the federal or Puerto Rican government. But the scope of the devastation is so broad, and the relief effort so concentrated in San Juan, that many people from outside the capital say they have received little to no help. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)
People wait in lines to take mony from an ATM in Humacao, in the east of Puerto Rico, on September 27, 2017. The US island territory, working without electricity, is struggling to dig out and clean up from its disastrous brush with the hurricane, blamed for at least 33 deaths across the Caribbean. / AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMALHECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images
A supermarket worker collects food requested by buyers in a supermarket in Humacao, in the east of Puerto Rico, on September 27, 2017. The US island territory, working without electricity, is struggling to dig out and clean up from its disastrous brush with the hurricane, blamed for at least 33 deaths across the Caribbean. / AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMALHECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images
A telephone technician tries to repair the lines in Punta Santiago, Humacao, in the east of Puerto Rico, on September 27, 2017, one week after the passage of Hurricane Maria. The US island territory, working without electricity, is struggling to dig out and clean up from its disastrous brush with the hurricane, blamed for at least 33 deaths across the Caribbean. / AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMALHECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images
A man with gas cans walks past a long line of cars as people queue up to buy gas in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, in Morovis, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017. A week since the passing of Maria many are still waiting for help from anyone from the federal or Puerto Rican government. But the scope of the devastation is so broad, and the relief effort so concentrated in San Juan, that many people from outside the capital say they have received little to no help. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Women help each other onto the river bank after wading across the Rio St. Lorenzo de Morovis, after the bridge traversing the river was washed away by Hurricane Maria, in the aftermath of the storm in Morovis, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017. A week since the passing of Maria many are still waiting for help from anyone from the federal or Puerto Rican government. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Vehicles travel along a dark street in an area without electricity after Hurricane Maria in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017. Trump�ordered the Jones Act to be waived for shipments to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico immediately�at the request of Governor�Ricardo Rossello, White House press secretary�Sarah Sanders�said Thursday. Photographer: Alex Wroblewski/Bloomberg
Nelida Trinidad walks around her destroyed home in Montebello, Puerto Rico, in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017. Five days after the Category 4 storm slammed into Puerto Rico, many of the more than 3.4 million U.S. citizens in the territory were still without adequate food, water and fuel. Flights off the island were infrequent, communications were spotty and roads were clogged with debris. Officials said electrical power may not be fully restored for more than a month. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Maribel Valentin Espino sits in her hurricane-destroyed home in Montebello, Puerto Rico, Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017. Five days after the Category 4 storm slammed into Puerto Rico, many of the more than 3.4 million U.S. citizens in the territory were still without adequate food, water and fuel. Flights off the island were infrequent, communications were spotty and roads were clogged with debris. Officials said electrical power may not be fully restored for more than a month. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Ysamar Figueroa carrying her son Saniel, looks at the damage in the neighbourhood after the area was hit by Hurricane Maria, in Canovanas, Puerto Rico September 26, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Jose Garcia Vicente walks through rubble of his destroyed home, in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, in Aibonito, Puerto Rico, Monday, Sept. 25, 2017. The U.S. ramped up its response Monday to the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico while the Trump administration sought to blunt criticism that its response to Hurricane Maria has fallen short of it efforts in Texas and Florida after the recent hurricanes there. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
People stand in line to withdraw cash from an automatic teller machine (ATM) after Hurricane Maria heavily damaged the government-run electricity system in the Miramar neighborhood of San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017. President�Donald Trump�said he will travel to Puerto Rico to survey damage. He told reporters that the federal government is "doing a really good job" in relief efforts and has shipped "massive amounts" of food and water. Photographer: Alex Wroblewski/Bloomberg
People queue to fill containers with water from a tank truck at an area hit by Hurricane Maria in Canovanas, Puerto Rico, September 26, 2017. Picture taken on September 26, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Melvin Rodriguez showers with water from a well on a street after the area was hit by Hurricane Maria in Canovanas, Puerto Rico, September 26, 2017. Picture taken on September 26, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
A woman cleans her house after the area was hit by Hurricane Maria in Canovanas, Puerto Rico September 26, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Myriam Rivera and her family rebuild their house destroyed by Hurricane Maria in the neigborhood of Acerolas in Toa Alto, Puerto Rico, on September 26, 2017. The US island territory, working without electricity, is struggling to dig out and clean up from its disastrous brush with the hurricane, blamed for at least 33 deaths across the Caribbean. / AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMALHECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images
Wilson Hernandez and his family rebuild their house destroyed by Hurricane Maria in the neigborhood of Acerolas in Toa Alto, Puerto Rico, on September 26, 2017. The US island territory, working without electricity, is struggling to dig out and clean up from its disastrous brush with the hurricane, blamed for at least 33 deaths across the Caribbean. / AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMALHECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images
SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO - SEPTEMBER 26: Edgar Morales sits and waits in line to get gas as he deals with the aftermath of Hurricane Maria on September 26, 2017 in San Juan Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico experienced widespread damage, including most of the electrical, gas and water grid after Hurricane Maria, a category 4 hurricane, devastated the island. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO - SEPTEMBER 26: Semiramis Colon her child, Keylianis Rodas, wait in line to get into a grocery store as they deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Maria on September 26, 2017 in San Juan Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico experienced widespread damage, including most of the electrical, gas and water grid after Hurricane Maria, a category 4 hurricane, devastated the island. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Down trees rest on tombs at the cemetery of Lares after the passing of Hurricane Maria, in Puerto Rico, Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017. Gov. Governor Ricardo Rossello and Resident Commissioner Jennifer Gonzalez, the island?s representative in Congress, have said they intend to seek more than a billion in federal assistance and they have praised the response to the disaster by President Donald Trump, who plans to visit Puerto Rico next week, as well as FEMA Administrator Brock Long. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Neighbors sit on a couch outside their destroyed homes as sun sets in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico, Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017. Governor Ricardo Rossello and Resident Commissioner Jennifer Gonzalez, the island?s representative in Congress, have said they intend to seek more than a billion in federal assistance and they have praised the response to the disaster by President Donald Trump, who plans to visit Puerto Rico next week, as well as FEMA Administrator Brock Long. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Nestor Serrano walks on the upstairs floor of his home, where the walls were blown off, in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico, Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017. Governor Ricardo Rossello and Resident Commissioner Jennifer Gonzalez, the island?s representative in Congress, have said they intend to seek more than a billion in federal assistance and they have praised the response to the disaster by President Donald Trump, who plans to visit Puerto Rico next week, as well as FEMA Administrator Brock Long. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Destroyed homes and vehicles sit in floodwaters after Hurricane Maria in this aerial photograph taken above Hamacao, Puerto Rico, on Monday, Sept. 25, 2017. Hurricane Maria hit the Caribbean island last week, knocking out electricity throughout the island. The territory is facing weeks, if not months, without service as utility workers repair�power�plants and lines that were already falling apart. Photographer: Alex Wroblewski/Bloomberg
Destroyed homes sit surrounded by debris from Hurricane Maria in this aerial photograph taken above La Perla in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Monday, Sept. 25, 2017. Hurricane Maria hit the Caribbean island last week, knocking out electricity throughout the island. The territory is facing weeks, if not months, without service as utility workers repair�power�plants and lines that were already falling apart. Photographer: Alex Wroblewski/Bloomberg
People stand in a bar damaged from Hurricane Maria in this aerial photograph taken above La Perla, San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Monday, Sept. 25, 2017. Hurricane Maria hit the Caribbean island last week, knocking out electricity throughout the island. The territory is facing weeks, if not months, without service as utility workers repair�power�plants and lines that were already falling apart. Photographer: Alex Wroblewski/Bloomberg
FILE PHOTO: A woman carries bottles of water and food during a distribution of relief items, after the area was hit by Hurricane Maria in San Juan, Puerto Rico September 24, 2017. REUTERS/Alvin Baez/File Photo
Photo Gallery: After the Category 4 hurricane slammed into Puerto Rico, many of the more than 3.4 million U.S. citizens in the territory were still without, adequate food, water, electricity and fuel. Flights off the island were infrequent, communications were spotty and roads were clogged with debris.

After an earthquake shattered Haiti's capital on Jan. 12, 2010, the U.S. military mobilized as if it were going to war.

Before dawn the next morning, an Army unit was airborne, on its way to seize control of the main airport in Port-au-Prince. Within two days, the Pentagon had 8,000 American troops en route. Within two weeks, 33 U.S. military ships and 22,000 troops had arrived. More than 300 military helicopters buzzed overhead, delivering millions of pounds of food and water.

No two disasters are alike. Each delivers customized violence that cannot be fully anticipated. But as criticism of the federal government's initial response to the crisis in Puerto Rico continued to mount Thursday, the mission to Haiti — an island nation several hundred miles from the U.S. mainland — stands as an example of how quickly relief efforts can be mobilized.

By contrast, eight days after Hurricane Maria ripped across neighboring Puerto Rico, just 4,400 service members were participating in federal operations to assist the devastated island, an Army general told reporters Thursday. In addition, about 1,000 Coast Guard members were aiding the efforts. About 40 U.S. military helicopters were helping to deliver food and water to the 3.4 million residents of the U.S. territory, along with 10 Coast Guard helicopters.

Leaders of the humanitarian mission in Haiti said in interviews that they were dismayed by the relative lack of urgency and military muscle in the initial federal response to Puerto Rico's catastrophe.

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President Trump signed a waiver on Sept. 28 that lifts shipping restrictions to hurricane-battered Puerto Rico. (Victoria Walker/The Washington Post)

"I think it's a fair ask why we're not seeing a similar command and response," said retired Lt. Gen. P.K. "Ken" Keen, the three-star general who commanded the U.S. military effort in Haiti, where 200,000 people died by some estimates. "The morning after, the president said we were going to respond in Port-au-Prince . . . robustly and immediately, and that gave the whole government clarity of purpose."

Rajiv J. Shah, who led the U.S. Agency for International Development during the Haiti response, said he, too, was struggling to "understand the delays."

"We were able to move more quickly in a foreign country, and with no warning because it was an earthquake, than a better-equipped agency was able to do in a domestic territory," he said.

Related: [Trump lifts shipping restrictions for Puerto Rico]

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has defended its efforts in Puerto Rico, saying it is coordinating a wide-ranging campaign to simultaneously deliver food, water and medicine and to restore power, clear pathways to hospitals and reopen mangled ports and airports.

It's a monumental task, one that FEMA says has been complicated immensely by a near-complete collapse of cellphone service on the island, as well as years of neglect to power lines and other utility systems.

FEMA and Defense Department officials have taken steps to beef up the response, announcing Thursday that they would elevate the military command structure on the ground in Puerto Rico, sending in a three-star Army general, Lt. Gen. Jeffrey S. Buchanan.

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White House national security adviser Tom Bossert said on Sept. 28 the Army Corps of Engineers will have a dedicated mission to restore power in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria. (Reuters)

Related: [Meet the general coordinating military operations with FEMA in Puerto Rico]

Keen, who was named to lead the efforts in Haiti three days after the quake, pointed to a complicating factor: Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, not a foreign nation, and that makes a huge difference in the rules of engagement when disaster strikes.

In Haiti, the United States was able to deploy active military combat brigades, quickly install a military commander and militarize the airspace at the invitation of Haitian officials.

In Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories, the nearly 140-year-old Posse Comitatus Act limits the role that active military personnel can play.

Also, Puerto Rico's aid requests, made under a mutual-assistance compact among the states and U.S. territories, helped shape the response. In recent days, as criticism of the effort has grown, administration officials have repeatedly said they are delivering what Puerto Rico has asked for.

Maj. Gen. James C. Witham, director of domestic operations for the National Guard Bureau, said that immediately after Maria's landfall, Puerto Rico requested only communications equipment and fewer than 200 military police officers. By comparison, 17,567 guardsmen from 24 states were on duty in Florida a day after Hurricane Irma made landfall.

More than 400 guardsmen from other states had been in Puerto Rico, assigned to help with cleanup from Irma, before Maria. Most evacuated in advance of Maria, and Puerto Rico has made no request for them to return, officials said.

All but about a few hundred of the 2,000 guardsmen now in Puerto Rico are members of the territory's own Guard unit. The National Guard Bureau has drafted plans to send as many as 6,000 soldiers, but Puerto Rico has yet to request them, Witham said.

"Essentially, everything Puerto Rico has asked for up to and including today we've tried to align with and lean as far forward as we can," Witham said.

What is clear is that, since Maria ravaged the island, there has been a disconnect between the level of aid requested or delivered and the needs of residents who are desperate for water, food and basic necessities of life.

At a hearing Wednesday, Sen. Margaret Wood Hassan (D-N.H.) read from an email in which a former Puerto Rico governor, Alejandro García Padilla, warned that "unless we see a dramatic increase in assistance and personnel reaching the island soon, many thousands could die."

"We need the Army and the National Guard deployed throughout the island, now, today," Hassan said, reading from the letter. "This cannot wait another day. Despite federal agencies coordinating in San Juan, there is very limited presence of military personnel assisting people in the streets and throughout our communities."

Elaine Duke, the acting head of the Department of Homeland Security, responded: "The president, vice president and I talked with the governor yesterday. And that was about 1 o'clock. And we — he had no unmet needs at that point."

John Rabin, a senior FEMA official in Puerto Rico, denied during a media teleconference Thursday that the federal government is waiting for requests from officials on the island.

"We are in lockstep with those guys, but we also recognize that this is a disaster and we have our priorities," Rabin said. "We are not in a waiting mode for anything."

Also Thursday, Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló defended his government's response to the humanitarian crisis. He said the unprecedented destruction of the storm and logistical limitations have impeded the flow of resources to some of the island's communities.

Rosselló walked into a daily briefing at the Puerto Rico convention center accompanied by a general or an admiral representing each branch of the U.S. military, displaying a united front a week after the hurricane walloped the island.

The governor emphasized that federal agencies are taking their direction from the territorial government.

"Let's make this clear — this is an operation of the government of Puerto Rico," Rosselló said. "We set the priorities. . . . We are taking action, and there are results."

Rosselló said the island's geographical challenges — everything must be brought in by boat or air — and the widespread communication failures have complicated relief efforts.

W. Craig Fugate, who was President Barack Obama's FEMA director for all eight years of his presidency, said that in a worst-case scenario, such as a tsunami, the federal government had long contemplated that Puerto Rico could be completely isolated, with its ports destroyed and all food and water needing to be airlifted onto the island or shuttled by Marine units that could land on beaches.

Fugate said FEMA did not have to wait for a signal from Puerto Rican authorities before activating more military assets.

Two U.S. defense officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive operation, said the inability to communicate readily with Puerto Rican officials immediately after the storm delayed the response. Another limiting factor, they said, was that FEMA officials did not have a full understanding of the devastation and the challenges until Director William "Brock" Long visited the island Monday. The next day, Long announced outside the White House that the military would deploy to Puerto Rico the 1,000-bed hospital ship USNS Comfort.

At least two other Navy ships, the USS Iwo Jima and the USS New York, responded to Hurricane Irma earlier in the month off the Florida Keys and could have been used to respond to Maria. Defense officials said they were instead sent back to Mayport, Fla., and remain in port there on ­prepare-to-deploy orders. They may yet be called upon to join the response.

On the day the quake rocked Haiti, one bit of happenstance may have sped the U.S. response. Keen happened to be on the island, at the residence of the U.S. ambassador. Keen watched dust rise across the countryside as buildings collapsed. A member of his staff was killed when the hotel where they were staying crumbled.

Keen relayed his firsthand account back to the head of the U.S. Southern Command, who was traveling in Washington. That night, Obama called USAID's Shah and told him to spare no expense in responding. "He said it was a chance for America to demonstrate our moral character," Shah recalled.

Air Force combat control teams were in the air the next morning. The airport, which became "the island's lifeline," Keen said, was secure and operational by nightfall. Troops began arriving every couple of hours.

Keen began organizing officers to conduct assessments and distribute food. Three days after the quake, his unofficial role became official — he was named Joint Task Force commander, with USAID taking the lead in coordinating the broader government response. Time magazine would later call Keen the de facto "king of Haiti."

Keen said for the seemingly slow start, the U.S. government can still correct course.

"The real test of leadership," he said, "is now what do we do about it now that it's clear that Puerto Rico is going to need help for a long time."

Arelis R. Hernández in San Juan and Joel Achenbach and Sandhya Somashekhar in Washington contributed to this report.


Aaron Davis is a reporter for The Post’s Investigative team.

Dan Lamothe covers the Pentagon and the U.S. military for The Washington Post. He joined the newspaper in spring 2014.

Ed O’Keefe has covered Congress and national politics since 2008.

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