Does Puerto Rico Need a Dunkirk Type Evacuation?

Does Puerto Rico Need a Dunkirk Type Evacuation?

It seems that the aid to Puerto Rico comes in very slowly by air. If people do not have clean water, it sets the stage for cholera. 1.5 million Puerto Ricans are without clean water.  But they also need food, fuel, electricity, air conditioning, and many need shelter.

Rather than flying or even barging in enough to support 3.5 million people for maybe half a year, it seems that a large fraction, who are most vulnerable, could be removed by boat and effectively sheltered in Florida and along the Gulf coast. The summer season is over, and the Christmas season has not started. There may be many cruise ships available for transport, and maybe some seaworthy barges and tankers who could support people for a few days’ trip to the mainland.

People could be sent back after services are repaired to provide for them in a healthy manner, and after comprehensive plans are in place for an orderly rebuilding.

If this was a life and death Dunkirk situation, the government would be justified in commandeering cruise ships for the evacuation. Passengers may not mind rebooking their vacations for the needs of those suffering from two hurricanes, who have nothing to start with.

Update:  Royal Caribbean, in an act of friendship to the Caribbean islands and Puerto Rico, where it books many tours, has sent three cruise ships to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands to bring in recovery supplies, and to take off people who need care.  It also had a tour to start in San Juan, PR, and may be taking those people back to the US.

There is a restriction to using American ships only to Puerto Rico, but that can be waived for National Security.  If the threatened lives on Puerto Rico, and the island-wide assaults of two extreme hurricanes are not National Security, I don’t know what is.

Update:  Trump has suspended the Jones Act, now allowing foreign carriers to transport cargo between the US and Puerto Rico, as he had already done for Texas and Florida.

While there is a holdup in clearing roads and trucking supplies, the US Naval Construction Battalions, or Seabees, are well equipped to carry out such a mission, and should be deployed.

Although Trump would say that this is no time to bring up politics, it certainly does motivate Trump.  Trump only won Florida by 1.2%, while a third party candidate Johnson got 2.2%.  That is, Trump won by only 113,000 votes out of 9.3 million votes.  If inattention to Puerto Rico forces many there to migrate to Florida, since they are already US citizens, it could carry great weight in a very close state, with 29 electoral votes.

Let’s face it, it will come down to whether the US government gives as much relief and priority to Puerto Rico as it does to the biggest, richest Republican states of Texas and Florida.

About Dennis SILVERMAN

I am a retired Professor of Physics and Astronomy at U C Irvine. For a decade I have been active in learning about energy and the environment, and in lecturing and attending classes at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at UC Irvine.
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