Puerto Ricans queue to buy petrol a week on from Hurricane Irma.
Puerto Ricans queue to buy petrol a week on from Hurricane Irma. Gerald Herbert

Katrina wrangler hits at Trump

THE general who is widely considered to have turned around the US government's flailing response to Hurricane Katrina has blasted the Trump administration's handling of the crisis confronting Puerto Rico.

Russel Honore, who in 2005 was asked by President George W Bush to tackle the aftermath of the storm that tore into New Orleans and killed more than 1800 people, said more people and emergency equipment should have been sent to the island in advance of Hurricane Maria.

With the island of 3.5 million people having had so much damage, the government should also have made greater use of the military, he said.

"It's kind of like Katrina: We got it. We got it. Oh, s**t, send in the cavalry,” Mr Honore told Bloomberg News.

"This is a hit on White House decision-making.”

With the island left without power and with shortages of fuel, food and clean drinking water, Mr Honore said only the military had the ability to move supplies quickly onto the island because many ports remained closed.

The situation required "expeditionary logistics” that involved specialised ships, aircraft and other equipment.

"The model you want is what was done in Florida (before Hurricane Irma) where every town had National Guard in it,” he said.

Mr Honore said he would send 50,000 troops to Puerto Rico, where he said the devastation was worse than New Orleans dealt with after Katrina.

"In Katrina, I had 20,000 federal troops. Not federal workers, federal troops.

"I had 20 ships and over 240 helicopters. And Puerto Rico is bigger than Katrina.”

His comments came as the Pentagon announced Brigadier General Jeffrey Buchanan would oversee the military response in Puerto Rico.

Mr Honore, who retired in 2008, said Mr Buchanan was the right man for the job, but the appointment was too late.

"It took us eight days to mobilise him to tell him to come do it,” he said.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said it had 600 workers in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. - INM