WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Rossello on Monday ordered an investigation into water distribution on the hurricane-battered island and warned there would be “hell to pay” for mishandling of supplies.
Rossello said drinking water supplies have been restored to nearly 60 percent of the island but some areas in the north remained at around 20 percent nearly three weeks after Hurricane Maria hit the U.S. territory.
The government was delivering food and water supplies to municipalities but people in some areas said they were not receiving them from local authorities.
Rossello told a news briefing in San Juan he ordered an investigation of water distribution after receiving complaints.
“If we are indeed getting … several hundred thousand liters of water and several hundred thousand portions of food to the municipalities, yet some people in those municipalities are claiming that they’re not seeing anything be delivered or they don’t know where to find food, then it’s important that we investigate why this is happening,” he said.
The distribution of supplies including food, water and fuel has been a major challenge for the struggling government after Maria wiped out its power grid, flooded roads and crippled the communications system.
He said the government was trying to identify problems in the distribution pipeline and looking to ensure that local leaders deliver resources as soon as they arrive in a municipality.
The governor said National Guard troops and auditors were helping to determine what was occurring.
“If there is a place, a locality that is not delivering food to the people of Puerto Rico that need it, there’s going to be some hell to pay,” Rossello told CNN earlier Monday.
Three weeks after the storm hit, Puerto Rico still has a long road to recovery, having only 15 percent of electrical power restored and struggling to regain communication services. The White House has asked Congress for $29 billion in hurricane relief for Puerto Rico, Texas and Florida.
The federal government’s waiver of the Jones Act for Puerto Rico will not be extended after it expires on Sunday night, a Department of Homeland Security official said on Monday. The act limits shipping between U.S. coasts to U.S. flagged vessels and can drive up the cost of goods.
(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Additional reporting by Makini Brice and Stephanie Kelly; Editing by Bill Trott and Jeffrey Benkoe)