SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO - Trucks laden with food, water and gasoline began arriving Wednesday on the tiny Puerto Rican islands of Vieques and Culebra after the governor activated the National Guard due to a breakdown of two ferries that carry supplies.
Lt. Col. Paul Dahlen told The Associated Press the National Guard is using two landing craft to bring trucks carrying supplies to the islands, which are located roughly 20 miles east of Puerto Rico. A total of roughly 11,000 people live on the two islands, which attract tens of thousands of tourists every year.
"We'll be working as long as needed to help our fellow Puerto Rican citizens in this time of need,'' he said.
Residents and tourists complained about empty shelves at supermarkets and long lines at gas stations after two cargo ferries operated by Puerto Rico's government broke down over the weekend.
Victor Emeric, Vieques' mayor, told the AP one of the ferries has been repaired and already has transported 11 delivery trucks to the island, where one supermarket was devoid of bread, water and eggs. However, he worries the ferry will break down again.
"These boats are kind of fragile,'' he said. "Everybody feels sorry for us, but the government does not want to invest in what needs to be invested.''
Dahlen said the National Guard also provided transportation to Vieques and Culebra in 2012 when several ferries were out of service.
The administration of Gov. Ricardo Rossello is pushing to privatize a public transportation system that has long been plagued by breakdowns and delays, and he told WAPA TV on Wednesday he expects to have a deal by summer.