Big Mexico quake cuts power and damages homes; two dead in crash

People stand on the street after an earthquake shook buildings in Mexico City, Mexico February 16, 2018.

By Lizbeth Diaz and Daina Beth Solomon

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – A prolonged 7.2 magnitude quake that rocked Mexico on Friday left nearly a million homes and businesses without power in the capital and south but the only reported deaths came when a military helicopter crashed after surveying the aftermath.

At least 50 homes suffered damage in the southern state of Oaxaca, which, along with Mexico City, is still reeling from earthquakes that caused widespread damage in September.

The epicenter was about 90 miles (145 km) from Pacific coast surfer resort Puerto Escondido in the southern state of Oaxaca and had a depth of 15.3 miles (24.6 km), according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

At least two people died when a helicopter carrying Mexico’s interior minister and the governor of Oaxaca crashed while trying to land after a tour of damage from the earthquake, officials said. The senior officials survived.

The powerful, sustained shaking on Friday gave way to 225 aftershocks, the national seismology service said, and caused widespread panic.

In Mexico City, the seismic alarm sounded 72 seconds before tremors were felt, Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera said, giving residents time to flee to the streets.

Patricia Gutierrez, a 66-year-old English teacher, was taking a nap with her 11-month-old granddaughter, Juliet, when she heard the distinctive siren.

“She recognized the sound. When I opened my eyes, I saw her eyes in terror. Her eyes were wide, like plates. She didn’t say anything,” Gutierrez said of her granddaughter.

Gutierrez managed to leave her ground floor apartment before the quake began. “I left the phone and everything except for my shoes and the baby,” she said.

Authorities said no deaths directly linked to the quake had been reported nationally.

BRICKS AND RUBBLE

The Oaxacan town of Jamiltepec appeared to sustain the heaviest impact in the southern region, with 50 homes damaged along with a church and government building, the state’s civil protection agency said.

Patients were evacuated from a hospital there and from another in the nearby town of Putla Villa de Guerrero. On a local highway, a fire ignited when two high-tension electric cables struck each other.

In the town of Pinotepa Nacional close to the quake’s epicenter, a photo obtained from Oaxaca’s civil protection agency showed a single-story building where a portion of the brick facade had crumbled into the street. A hospital was also damaged, and a collapsed structure blocked a major highway.

About 100,000 people in Oaxaca had lost power, the state’s governor said.

National oil firm Pemex said its installations were in order, including its biggest refinery 240 miles (386 km) from the epicenter. A hotel operator in Puerto Escondido said his property had no damage.

Tremors were felt as far away as Guatemala to the south.

Images in the media appeared to show bricks and rubble fallen from buildings, and products tumbling off shelves in a supermarket.

In Mexico City, tall buildings swayed for more than a minute as seismic alarms sounded, with older structures in the chic Condesa neighborhood knocking into each other, and some cracks appearing in plaster and paintwork.

The Popocatepetl volcano south of the capital sent a kilometer-high column of ash into the sky, said Mexico’s disaster prevention agency.

Two young men standing by a building that collapsed in a Sept. 19 earthquake were still hugging minutes after the tremor. People crowded in the streets, one lady in her pajamas.

Trees, overhead cables and cars swayed, and a fire truck raced down the street.

Guadalupe Martinez, a 64-year-old retiree, said she was still shaking from shock. But the quake was a far cry from the tremors that struck Mexico in September, Martinez said.

“This time it was strong, but it did not jump up and down,” she said.

(Reporting by Julia Love, Christine Murray, Michael O’Boyle, David Alire Garcia, Anthony Esposito and Stefanie Eschenbacher; Writing by Daina Beth Solomon and Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien, Lisa Shumaker and Tom Hogue)

Killer Storm brings freezing rain and snow to U.S. Northeast

(Reuters) – A winter storm packing freezing rain and heavy snow was expected to sweep across much of the U.S. Northeast on Wednesday, snarling transportation, closing dozens of schools and threatening power outages.

The same storm system has killed several people in accidents in the Midwest since Monday, including six in Iowa, two in Missouri and one in Montana, local media in those states reported.

Much of the region from southern Indiana northeast through Maine was under either a winter storm watch or warning. Some 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 cm) of snow and a 1/4 inch (.5 cm) of ice accumulation were in the forecast, the National Weather Service said.

“Travel will be dangerous and nearly impossible,” the service said, warning that ice may cause widespread power outages.

Dozens of school districts in the East Coast, including in Pittsburgh and Albany, New York canceled classes on Wednesday while Baltimore schools delayed the start of school for two hours. Federal agencies in Washington D.C. were also opening two hours later than normal.

About 800 flights within, into or out of the United States were canceled on Wednesday nationwide, according to the FlightAware tracking service.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Frances Kerry)

U.S. agency says will keep providing water, other essentials in Puerto Rico

A car is partially buried under the remains of a building, after Hurricane Maria hit the island in September, in Humacao, Puerto Rico January 25, 2018.

By Nick Brown

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency said on Wednesday it would continue providing water, meals and other essentials to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico despite earlier reports its humanitarian mission in the U.S. territory would end on Wednesday.

“There was never, and is not now, a decision to stop distributing commodities on the island,” FEMA said in a written statement on Wednesday evening.

Puerto Rico is struggling to recover from Hurricane Maria, which hit on Sept. 20. The storm killed dozens and left the entire island without power at a time when it was already trudging through the largest government bankruptcy in U.S. history, with some $120 billion in combined bond and pension debt.

Some Puerto Rican and U.S. politicians had criticized FEMA this week after NPR reported on Monday that FEMA’s mission in Puerto Rico was coming to an end, citing a spokesman for the agency.

On Tuesday, FEMA reversed course, saying the initial Jan. 31 end date had been relayed in error.

Democratic U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, speaking on the Senate Floor on Monday, had said it would be “unconscionable” and “a travesty” to cut off aid in Puerto Rico, where nearly a third of the island’s 3.4 million U.S. citizens still lack power more than four months after the storm.

Eventually, FEMA will hand over responsibility for humanitarian aid to Puerto Rico’s government.

Amid the confusion over the timing of that transition, Puerto Rico’s public safety director, Hector Pesquera, said on Tuesday his administration was still negotiating with FEMA on the timing of the handover.

“We have yet to finish the discussions about when the transition should start,” Pesquera said. “It is important to note that this transition period should last at least two weeks.”

(Reporting by Nick Brown; Editing by James Dalgleish)

Commuters in U.S. South face tough trek after deadly storm

Snow cover in the U.S. 1-18-18 - National Weather Service

By Rich McKay

ATLANTA (Reuters) – Commuters in the U.S. South faced frigid temperatures and dangerously slick roads on Thursday after a winter storm, responsible for at least eight deaths, thrashed the region with heavy snow and winds that snapped power lines.

Schools in New Orleans, Charlotte and Atlanta and across the region canceled classes on Thursday as winter weather advisories from the National Weather Service (NWS) remained in effect from eastern Texas to Florida and north into southeast Virginia.

“Motorists are urged to use extreme caution, or avoid travel if possible,” the NWS said in an advisory, warning that freezing temperatures would keep roads icy.

Wind chill advisories were in effect as temperatures will feel like they have fallen below zero Fahrenheit (-18 degrees Celsius) in parts of the Carolinas, Alabama and Virginia.

More than 14,000 households and businesses in North Carolina and Louisiana and in various parts of the South were without power early on Thursday, utility companies said online.

The governors of Georgia, North Carolina and Louisiana declared states of emergency because of severe conditions that made traveling treacherous.

“We cannot stress it enough for everyone to stay off the roads unless you have no choice,” North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said in a statement, adding the storm had caused 1,600 traffic accidents.

More than 9 inches (23 cm) of snow have fallen in Durham, North Carolina since Monday, with 7 inches (18 cm) or more measured at various locations across southern Virginia, the NWS said.

The storm has caused at least eight deaths.

In Austin, Texas, a vehicle plunged more than 30 feet (9 meters) off a frozen overpass on Tuesday, killing a man in his 40s, Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Service said on its Twitter feed.

An 82-year-old woman who suffered from dementia was found dead on Wednesday behind her Houston-area home, likely due to exposure to cold, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office said. Another woman died from cold exposure in Memphis, police said on Twitter.

In Georgia, two people were fatally struck by a car that slid on an ice patch near Macon, local media reports said.

A man was killed when he was knocked off an elevated portion of Interstate 10 in New Orleans and an 8-month-old baby died in a car crash in suburban New Orleans, local news reports said.

A woman died in West Virginia in a car crash, local reports said.

(Additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Edmund Blair and Bernadette Baum)

China warns of second wave of snow after blizzard alert lifted

: A Chinese flag is seen in front of the Friendship bridge over the Yalu River connecting the North Korean town of Sinuiju and Dandong in China's Liaoning Province on April 1, 2017.

SHANGHAI/BEIJING (Reuters) – China warned of a second wave of snow and sleet hitting northern, central and eastern parts on Friday after record snowfall paralyzed parts of the country in the most severe weather this winter.

Heavy snowfall has wreaked havoc in central and eastern China since Tuesday, killing 10 people and disrupting the lives of more than half a million people in five provinces, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

Agriculture has also been hit, with economic losses amounting to 510 million yuan ($79 million) so far.

The National Meteorological Centre lifted a blizzard alert, but said light to moderate snowfall was expected to sweep across much of the north between Friday and Sunday.

Snow has disrupted public transport and energy supplies, damaged power lines and shut roads, airports and schools in parts of central China.

All power in Suizhou, a small city of 2.5 million people in the north of central Hubei province, was down due to heavy snow, state broadcaster China Central Television reported.

Temperatures in Suizhou are expected to plunge as low as minus 5 degrees Celsius (23 degrees Fahrenheit) on Friday.

Hubei, which does not have central heating infrastructure unlike northern provinces, has seen a spike in electricity consumption for heating, according to CCTV.

On Thursday, at least three airports were shut and nine were experiencing extensive delays because of heavy snowfall.

As of 0630 GMT on Friday, all airports in China were open, and only three airports faced delays, according to Chinese aviation data provider VariFlight.

Several high-speed trains from Shanghai and Beijing were also delayed or canceled on Thursday, and highways in the provinces of Jiangsu, Henan, Shaanxi and Hubei have also been closed off, the China Daily reported.

The ceilings of several bus stations in Hefei, the capital of Anhui province, had collapsed as a result of snow, resulting in at least one death, the newspaper said. The province saw a record 30 cm (12 inches) of snow on Thursday.

The roof of a factory in Xiangyang, also in Hubei province, collapsed, trapping five people, and traffic in the city ground to a halt, according to the state broadcaster, China National Radio.

CCTV footage on Friday also showed collapsed roofs of factories in Henan and Anhui provinces.

By contrast, Beijing has been dry, with many parts of northern China experiencing little to no snowfall.

(Reporting by David Stanway in SHANGHAI and Michael Martina in BEIJING; Additional reporting by Judy Hua, Ryan Woo, Brenda Goh and Zhang Min; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Fierce storm knocks out power in U.S. Northeast

A man uses a snowblower to clear snow from a street during a snowstorm in Port Washington, New York, U.S. January 4, 2018.

By Scott Malone and Gina Cherelus

BOSTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) – A powerful blizzard battered the Northeast on Thursday, knocking out power for tens of thousands of people and snarling travel amid a long cold snap that has gripped much of the United States for more than a week and killed more than a dozen people.

Thousands of flights were canceled, snow plows and salt trucks rumbled along roads and highways, and New York City’s two main airports halted flights due to whiteout conditions.

Commuters who braved the storm in the morning worried that they could be stranded during the storm’s peak expected later in the day.

“I don’t know where I’ll stay tonight if I get stuck, probably with my boss,” said Ran Richardson, 55, of Malden, Massachusetts, as he waited for a Boston subway to take him to training for his job as a Chinese-English translator.

Schools were ordered closed in New York City, many parts of New Jersey, Boston and elsewhere throughout the region.

Blizzard warnings were in effect along the East Coast from North Carolina to Maine. The National Weather Service forecast winds as high as 70 miles per hour (113 km per hour), which downed power lines.

Some 65,000 homes and businesses in the Northeast were without power, though that number was expected to rise as the storm intensified across the region.

More than a foot (30 cm) of snow was forecast for Boston and coastal areas of northern New England, with as much as 3 inches (7.6 cm) per hour forecast, a pace that made it difficult for plow crews to keep roads clear. Officials feared that fast-dropping temperatures after the storm passed would turn remaining snow on roadways to ice.

High tides also caused flooding in parts of coastal Massachusetts, with seawater rising near buildings, including a hotel and along Boston’s historic Long Wharf, a popular tourist attraction. The water tied a four-decade-old flood record, the National Weather Service’s office said.

Live television images showed multiple fire trucks responding to the area. Boston Fire Department officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The storm was powered by a rapid plunge in barometric pressure that some weather forecasters were referring to as bombogenesis or a “bomb cyclone” and which brought fast, heavy snowfall and high winds.

The bombogenesis phenomenon occurs when a storm’s barometric pressure drops 24 millibars in 24 hours.

The wintry weather has been blamed for at least 13 deaths in the past few days, including three fatalities in North Carolina traffic accidents and three in Texas due to cold.

More than 3,500 U.S. airline flights were canceled. New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport and LaGuardia Airport temporarily halted all flights due to whiteout conditions, the Federal Aviation Administration said.

At those airports, the metropolitan area’s third major airport in Newark, New Jersey, and Boston’s Logan International Airport, as many as three out of four flights were called off, according to tracking service FlightAware.com.

Passenger train operator Amtrak was running reduced service in the Northeast. Sporadic delays were reported on transit systems, including New York state’s Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North commuter lines, as well as the Boston area’s Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) system.

“The MBTA is always going to have problems because so much of its track is outdoors,” said Mitchell Moss, a professor of urban policy and planning at New York University who is an expert on transit issues. Frozen switches and high winds interfere with above-ground train operations, he said.

Officials reported road accidents throughout the Northeast, including in Manchester, New Hampshire, where a 32-year-old woman crashed a vehicle through the wall of a nursing home, according to local police. No one was injured in the incident.

The storm’s impact extended to eastern Canada.

In the Southeast, historic cities saw their heaviest snowfall in nearly 30 years on Wednesday, according to AccuWeather.com senior meteorologist Alan Reppert. Charleston, South Carolina, received 5.3 inches (13.46 cm) of accumulation, within an inch of its record.

Thursday’s power outages raised fears that people would be left without electricity and heat on Friday and during the weekend when temperatures are forecast to plunge.

“Due to strong wind gusts, any power outages are expected to be prolonged because bucket trucks cannot withstand the winds,” Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy told reporters.

(Additional reporting by Colleen Jenkins in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee and Jonathan Allen and Scott DiSavino in New York; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Jonathan Oatis)

Storm Eleanor causes flood damage on Ireland’s west coast

People view large waves and high winds associated with Storm Eleanor as they hit the lighthouse and seawall at Porthcawl in south Wales, Britain January 3, 2018.

GALWAY (Reuters) – Homes and business on Ireland’s west coast suffered flood damage and 27,000 were still without electricity on Wednesday after Storm Eleanor brought heavy rain and winds of up to 155 kilometers per hour.

A car drives along a flooded road in New Brighton, on the coast of the Wirral peninsula, in Merseyside, Britain, January 3, 2018.

A car drives along a flooded road in New Brighton, on the coast of the Wirral peninsula, in Merseyside, Britain, January 3, 2018. REUTERS/Phil Noble

 

The storm hit Ireland’s fourth largest city, Galway, particularly hard as high tides late on Tuesday forced road closures and wreaked havoc for shop owners.

Cars are seen in a flooded multi-storey car park as flood waters reached up to 1.5 meters and destroyed multiple cars, in Galway, Ireland January 3, 2018.

Cars are seen in a flooded multi-storey car park as flood waters reached up to 1.5 meters and destroyed multiple cars, in Galway, Ireland January 3, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

Ireland’s Electricity Supply Board (ESB) said at one stage on Tuesday 150,000 homes and business were without electricity.

“We’re really hopeful, given that it’s the last week of a lot of people’s Christmas holidays, that we will have power back to pretty much everybody by tonight,” Derek Hynes, Operations Manager for ESB, told national broadcaster RTE.

The weather service’s second highest level of alert remained in place for the west and northwest of the country. Met Eireann said a combination of high tides and exceptionally high seas would result in coastal damage and further flooding.

Three people died in October when Tropical Storm Ophelia battered every corner of Ireland, bringing down trees and power lines and whipping up 10-meter (30-foot) waves.

(Writing by Padraic Halpin in Dublin; editing by Stephen Addison)

Puerto Rico moves to cancel Whitefish power contract after uproar

: A pickup truck from Montana-based Whitefish Energy Holdings is parked as workers (not pictured) help fix the island's power grid, damaged during Hurricane Maria in September, in Manati, Puerto Rico October 25, 2017.

By Ginger Gibson and David Gaffen

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) – Puerto Rico’s government power company said on Sunday it will cancel a $300 million contract with a tiny Montana company to restore power to the storm-hit U.S. territory after an uproar over the deal.

The contract between Whitefish Energy Holdings and Puerto Rico’s bankrupt power utility came under fire after it was revealed last week that the terms were obtained without a competitive public bidding process. Residents, local officials and U.S. federal authorities all criticized the arrangement.

The cancellation could further complicate Puerto Rico’s most pressing challenge from the territory’s worst storm in 80 years – restoring power to its 3.4 million residents. Nearly six weeks after Hurricane Maria devastated the island, only about a quarter of homes and businesses have power, and the utility has set a goal of having 95 percent of power back by the middle of December.

Several other utilities have been involved in recovery efforts, but Whitefish said they had more than 350 people on the island. Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority’s (PREPA) Director Ricardo Ramos said that he had to consider the “delay risk” of agreeing to cancel the contract. The territory has reached out to officials in Florida and New York, which have already sent people to Puerto Rico, to send more crews in the event that Whitefish departs.

Whitefish said in a statement it was “disappointed” in the decision, adding that it will “only delay what the people of Puerto Rico want and deserve – to have the power restored quickly in the same manner their fellow citizens on the mainland experience after a natural disaster.”

Earlier on Sunday, Puerto Rico’s Governor, Ricardo Rosselló had called for the contract with Whitefish to be canceled, and PREPA’s Ramos said he had accepted the governor’s recommendation.

“Following the information that has emerged, and with the goal of protecting public interest, as governor I am asking government and energy authorities to immediately activate the clause to cancel the contract to Whitefish Energy,” Rossello said in a statement.

Ramos, in a press conference Sunday, noted that the initial enthusiasm from residents over Whitefish employees coming to the island had shifted in the last several days after media reported the details of the contract.

“As soon as this whole issue was interpreted by the tabloids that PREPA has given away $300 million to a company with little experience…if you read that, and you have no light and no water that perception changes abruptly to the extent that the last four days they’ve been throwing stones and bottles” at workers, Ramos said.

Ramos said contract terms with Whitefish meant that the cancellation would become effective 30 days from notice and, signaling potential intricacies, explained that there were “a lot of logistics involved. I believe they have people on the way here.”

“The contract is not canceled as of yet. I am writing today a letter to the board of directors of PREPA asking for a resolution that will allow me to cancel the contract,” Ramos said.

Whitefish, which has a full-time staff of two, said it would complete any work that PREPA wanted it to, and noted their initial efforts “exceeded all other efforts by other parties.”

They said they completed work on two major transmission lines that crossed the island’s mountainous interior, and that PREPA’s decision to contact them “only sped up the repairs.”

Criticism increased after a copy of the contract with PREPA surfaced online on Thursday night and raised more questions, particularly over language blocking oversight of costs and profits.

Ramos noted that the federal contracting process is a long one, and that PREPA “could not wait.”

Workers from Montana-based Whitefish Energy Holdings help fix the island's power grid, damaged during Hurricane Maria in September, in Manati, Puerto Rico October 25, 2017.

FILE PHOTO: Workers from Montana-based Whitefish Energy Holdings help fix the island’s power grid, damaged during Hurricane Maria in September, in Manati, Puerto Rico October 25, 2017. REUTERS/Alvin Baez/File Photo

APPEAL TO NEW YORK, FLORIDA

Efforts to restore power have been bumpy. It took more than a week for a damage assessment to be completed, and PREPA did not immediately ask for what is known as “mutual aid,” whereupon utilities send workers in droves to restore power to hard-hit areas.

Residents have been forced to rely on diesel generators and most of the island remained in darkness.

Eventually, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was put in charge of power restoration. Rosselló said he had reached out to Florida and New York in part because of a delay in the arrival of brigades from the Army Corps.

Speaking to CNN, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he could send hundreds of work crews to Puerto Rico to assist with the repair work. Florida Governor Rick Scott’s office said he and Rossello “have talked frequently regarding Hurricane Maria recovery. Governor Scott is proud to offer any guidance, advice and assistance they may need.”

PREPA declared bankruptcy in July. It has a $9 billion debt load caused by years of unsuccessful rate collection efforts, particularly from municipal governments and state agencies, and a lack of investment in equipment and maintenance.

The Puerto Rican government is bracing for the possibility that Whitefish would sue for breach of contract if the cancellation is approved, according to sources familiar with discussions. The government already paid Whitefish $8 million and does not expect the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency to reimburse that sum, the sources said.

 

(Additional reporting by Tracy Rucinski, Jessica Resnick-Ault, Dan Bases and Nick Brown; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Mary Milliken)

 

Windy rainstorm whips U.S. Northeast, cutting power to hundreds of thousands

Storm Summary has been initialized for the deep low pressure system which is bringing damaging winds, heavy rain across the Northeast, even some snow over West Virginia.

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Fierce winds and heavy rain downed trees and knocked out power across the U.S. Northeast, halting trains during the Monday morning commute and leaving neighborhoods from Boston to Washington in the dark.

Wind gusts of 82 miles (131.97 km) per hour were reported on Massachusetts’ Cape Cod, while steady rain from Sunday into Monday dumped up to 4 inches (10.16 cm) of water across New England, said National Weather Service meteorologist Marc Chenard.

“There has been quite a bit of wind, and when the ground gets wet like this, trees fall,” Chenard said.

Amtrak train service between Boston and New Haven, Connecticut, was suspended early on Monday as crews scrambled to clear branches and restore power, authorities said.

Connecticut commuters piled onto buses or sought alternative routes after Metro-North Railroad suspended service on its New Canaan line and on its Danbury line, which it said on Twitter was hampered by a mudslide and related signal problems.

More than 800,000 homes and businesses lost electricity overnight throughout the Northeast, including about 300,000 customers in Massachusetts, 270,000 in New Hampshire, 142,000 in Rhode Island, 30,000 on New York’s Long Island, 56,000 in Maine and 35,000 in Vermont, according to local media.

Early on Monday, traffic lights in parts of Washington remained dark due to power outages.

The storm hit the East Coast on the fifth anniversary of Superstorm Sandy. That late-season hurricane killed at least 159 people in New York, New Jersey and other parts of the East Coast on Oct. 29, 2012, and damaged or destroyed more than 650,000 homes.

The National Weather Service said the heaviest rains and winds ended late on Monday morning, but lighter precipitation and some gusts would persist throughout the day.

“The biggest potential now is for more trees to come down and for minor-to-moderate river flooding in eastern New York and much of New England today into tomorrow,” Chenard said.

It was not immediately known how long it would be until power is fully restored.

 

(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

 

Schumer calls on Trump to appoint official to oversee Puerto Rico relief

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) departs after a full-Senate briefing by Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein at the U.S. Capitol in Washington

By Pete Schroeder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Charles Schumer, the top Democrat in the U.S. Senate, called on President Donald Trump on Sunday to name a single official to oversee and coordinate relief efforts in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico.

Schumer, along with Representatives Nydia Velàzquez and Jose Serrano, said a “CEO of response and recovery” is needed to manage the complex and ongoing federal response in the territory, where millions of Americans remain without power and supplies.

In a statement, Schumer said the current federal response to Hurricane Maria’s impact on the island had been “disorganized, slow-footed and mismanaged.”

“This person will have the ability to bring all the federal agencies together, cut red tape on the public and private side, help turn the lights back on, get clean water flowing and help bring about recovery for millions of Americans who have gone too long in some of the worst conditions,” he said.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Democrats contended that naming a lone individual to manage the government’s relief efforts was critical, particularly given that the Federal Emergency Management Agency is already stretched thin from dealing with other crises, such as the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in Texas and the wildfires in California.

The severity of the Puerto Rico crisis, where a million people do not have clean water and millions are without power nearly a month after Hurricane Maria made landfall, demand a single person to focus exclusively on relief and recovery, the Democrats said.

Forty-nine people have died in Puerto Rico officially, with dozens more missing. The hurricane did extensive damage to the island’s power grid, destroying homes, roads and other vital infrastructure. Now, the bankrupt territory is struggling to provide basic services like running water, and pay its bills.

“It’s tragically clear this Administration was caught flat footed when Maria hit Puerto Rico,” said Velàzquez. “Appointing a CEO of Response and Recovery will, at last, put one person with authority in charge to manage the response and ensure we are finally getting the people of Puerto Rico the aid they need.”

On Thursday, Trump said the federal response has been a “10” on a scale of one to 10 at a meeting with Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello.

The governor has asked the White House and Congress for at least $4.6 billion in block grants and other types of funding.

Senator Marco Rubio called on Congress to modify an $18.7 billion aid package for areas damaged by a recent swath of hurricanes to ensure that Puerto Rico can quickly access the funds.

 

(Reporting by Pete Schroeder; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Diane Craft)