Puerto Rico Dilemma – Distribution Chokepoints Plague Every Catastrophe

Distribution is the barrier to helping Puerto Ricans recover from the aftermath of two major hurricanes, Irma & Maria.  Natural disasters (e.g. earthquakes, floods, volcanic eruptions, etc.) always block the means and ways to relief.  The lack of airfields limits aid delivery to large helicopters; for areas open to water, boats that can land on beaches.

The Island of Puerto Rico’s infrastructure is destroyed.  Ships waiting in harbors will do no good if they cannot moor and unload; mountains of needed supplies piled on docks and airfields will do no good without roads, trucks, and drivers to get them where they are needed; generators and powerplants at full capacity will do no good without transmission lines, power stations, and power lines; without power, fuel for generators and vehicles is largely unavailable; thousands of volunteers and military will do no good if they cannot get to the victims.

Waiting for aid might not be the best strategy for the stranded; it might be better if they could move to locations that offered food, shelter, medical aid.  Travel is difficult, but unless transportation becomes available, walking is better than starving.  It may be more effective to transport people out, than moving enough support to the afflicted areas.  In addition, when supplies are delivered, the transport must return to its origin; it could carry refugees.

Puerto Rico’s infrastructure was built to meet the needs of the 3.4 million residents and 4 million plus tourists per year.  They do not have the capacity to repair/replace everything at once.  Complaining and blaming will not change that quickly.

Addressing humanitarian needs (water, food, medical) is priority one.  Restoring power to enable equipment and transportation is priority two.  Opening roads, ports, and airfields is priority three.

Allowing more ships to clog the harbors, adding more soldiers to crowd the capital while they wait for transport, will not help.

Top needs:  Helicopters, generators, bulldozers, and fuel are the hardware; pilots, engineers, drivers, and equipment operators are the software.  Let’s focus on these first.