Puerto Rico: Trump lifts shipping ban for storm-hit island

Puerto Rico: Trump lifts shipping ban for storm-hit island

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello said he petitioned the White House on Wednesday night to temporarily lift the ban.

A week after Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico leaving the island with a grave agriculture crisis, Donald Trump waives the historic Jones Act, a bill preventing foreign ships from importing goods and services to the US colony.

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke told reporters outside the White House Thursday that food, water and fuel shortages on the USA island are "the fault of the hurricane" and that "the relief effort is under control".

But Puerto Rico has to wait until American boats can reach its shores with supplies because of an obscure, World War I-era shipping law that the Trump administration is refusing to waive.

Sens. Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Mike Lee of Utah said the waiver will help, but will not do enough to help Puerto Rico recover and rebuild from Hurricane Maria.

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House Speaker Paul Ryan says federal disaster relief accounts will get a boost of almost $7 billion dollars by the end of the week to help hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico.

"The situation on the island is perilous and reporting on the sustained damage and dangers is hard at best", Esri Industry Manager Ryan Lanclos said in a statement.

The Caribbean island, a United States territory, has been coping with shortages of food, drinking water, electricity and various forms of communication in recent weeks. The act mandates that products shipped between American ports be carried by vessels built in the United States and staffed by US citizens.

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke waived the law earlier this month to help ease fuel shortages in the Southeast following hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

Duke characterized the US response in Puerto Rico as a "good news story in terms of our ability to reach people and the limited number of deaths that have taken place after such a devastating hurricane".

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"We're thinking about that", Trump said on Wednesday. Critics have called the act anachronistic and argue that it is stalling recovery efforts in the badly damaged island territory that was hit by two massive storms in quick succession this month.

Apparently stung by the criticisms, administration officials have emphasized the complexity of delivering aid to the island.

The island, located 1,150 miles off the southeastern coast of Florida, remains largely under blackout.

A barge with 100 defense trucks carrying diesel and gasoline was expected to arrive in San Juan by Monday. That order included Puerto Rico, but expired last week shortly after Maria struck. The money was in addition to $2.5 million in emergency funds awarded to Puerto Rico after Irma, according to the department's Federal Highway Administration.

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