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Cuomo: Troopers, soldiers, food, supplies on way to Puerto Rico

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo holds a press conference

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo holds a press conference to discuss New York State's role in helping with relief for the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico, Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017. Photo Credit: Officer of the Governor

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has deployed 100 state police troopers, 60 National Guard soldiers and a ship stocked with supplies to Puerto Rico — part of the state’s latest shipment of aid to the hurricane-battered island.

At a news conference in midtown Manhattan on Wednesday, Cuomo said the state was prepared to send an additional 245 National Guard members, four Black Hawk Helicopters, and 16 Humvees to the island of 3.5 million U.S. citizens reeling from the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

“Anything this state can do, this state will do,” said Cuomo, who traveled to Puerto Rico Friday to survey the damage at the request of the island’s Gov. Ricardo Rosselló.

Cuomo said a ship dubbed “The Empire State,” belonging to SUNY Maritime, was already near Key West and ready to deliver dozens of pallets of supplies that have been collected over the past week at relief drives throughout the city. The shipment includes 22,000 bottles of water, 17,000 packages of baby wipes, 4,000 packages of diapers, and 2,000 canned food items, according to Cuomo’s office.

With much of the island’s infrastructure decimated by back- to-back hurricanes, Cuomo said as many as 30 state Department of Transportation workers will be sent in the coming days to “perform highway restoration work” and to help distribute supplies. A team of state engineers was sent last week. Much of the island remains without electricity and running water.

Cuomo’s announcement came as President Donald Trump continues to face criticism from Democratic lawmakers who have said his response has been inadequate and slow moving. Trump is set to visit Puerto Rico on next Tuesday — nearly two weeks after Maria made landfall.

Responding to his critics Tuesday, Trump told White House reporters “this isn’t like Florida where we can go right up the spine, or like Texas where we go right down the middle and we distribute. This is a thing called the Atlantic Ocean. This is tough stuff.”

Asked about the federal government’s response, Cuomo noted the Federal Emergency Management Agency was spread thin after responding to hurricane damage caused in Texas, Florida and the U.S. Virgin Islands earlier this month and in August.

“I’m not going to second guess what FEMA does,” Cuomo said. “I know that the overall effort has not satiated the need. We should be doing everything we can and all that we can and we should be addressing the need. I don’t think the collective we is addressing the need.”

Cuomo said the state’s relief efforts would be largely reimbursed through the federal government and would cost “very little” to state taxpayers.

Also Wednesday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the city had deployed an additional 10 emergency management officers, and 64 FDNY officers to Puerto Rico in the past two days, bringing the city’s total number of personnel aiding on the island to 147 employees.

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