A group of 145 House Democrats said Wednesday the Defense Department response to the disaster in Puerto Rico has been inadequate and they urged President Trump to send an aircraft carrier to help relieve the territory's suffering residents.
A carrier's additional military aircraft and engineers are needed to help clear roads, rescue stranded residents and deliver emergency supplies to isolated parts of the island after it was slammed by Hurricane Maria last week, the lawmakers wrote in a letter to Trump.
"To fulfill DOD's mission, we believe the aircraft carrier, USS Abraham Lincoln, should be sent to the region, similar to its deployment to Miami following Hurricane Irma," the lawmakers wrote in a letter to Trump.
The lawmakers also cited reports of looting in the aftermath of Maria as evidence of the need for a larger military presence.
"We were recently informed of armed gangs ransacking a warehouse that distributes food and supplies," they wrote in the letter.
The military could assist local law enforcement in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands and ensure that supplies get to needy residents who do not have to "fear for their lives" when getting fuel or food.
"The U.S. military has unique capabilities that can help alleviate this situation, and the president must exercise the proper leadership to make that happen," said Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., the ranking member on the Armed Services Committee.
The Democrats also called for Trump to send a senior general to Puerto Rico to coordinate the relief effort.
The Pentagon said it sent Brig. Gen. Richard Kim, who is deputy commanding general of operations for U.S Army North, to set up an operational headquarters and coordinate with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Puerto Rico authorities as the military ramps up its efforts on the island.