Friend of this page Bryan Norcross writes in the Washington Post:
All Americans should be horrified by the depth of the tragedy in Puerto Rico. While we can’t forget our friends who are suffering in Texas and Florida — especially in the Keys — the Puerto Rican tragedy is on a different scale.
. . . [The] apocalyptic destruction combined with large-scale suffering remind[s] me of the scenes of devastation and isolation I saw after Hurricane Andrew demolished the suburbs south of Miami in August 1992. . . . In the end, the U.S. Army was required to bring order to the madness.
. . . civilian systems for dealing with a major disaster cannot handle a cataclysm, no matter the skill of the administrators or the intensity of the effort.
. . . The U.S. military is increasingly becoming involved in the Puerto Rican response effort, which is a good sign, but the comparisons with the eventual Andrew response are stark. The Andrew catastrophe zone was, perhaps, 250 square miles and involved about 350,000 people — closer to 100,000 after those that could resettle elsewhere did. It took about 20,000 troops and military-support personnel to provide security, housing, communications, and other critical services after Andrew. They were still operating the Homestead tent city eight months after the storm.
Puerto Rico is about 3,500 square miles and home to about 3.4 million people. Having seen firsthand the crisis that developed in the first few weeks after Andrew, and the seeming endlessness of the 1992 disaster zone, it is impossible for me to imagine the scope of the calamity engulfing Puerto Rico. And, having learned that only the military has the ability to deliver men, materiel, organization and leadership in the time frame required, I am left to wonder why that Andrew lesson wasn’t applied to this catastrophic situation, which is at least an order of magnitude larger.
FEMA should have planned for this possible, foreseeable — and now entirely real — catastrophe the week before Maria hit, not the week after. If 20,000 troops were required in Homestead, a much larger force is required in Puerto Rico.
And what an opportunity to put Puerto Rican American citizens to work building modern, resilient infrastructure for the next 100 years — an effort that in itself would kick start their troubled economy . . . and for far less than we’ve spent trying to build Iraq.