Abner Gómez, director of the Puerto Rico State Agency for Emergency and Disaster Management, also known as PREMA, submitted his resignation on 10 November 2017. Photo: Abner Gómez / Facebook

By Ray Sanchez
11 November 2017

(CNN) – Puerto Rico's emergency management director resigned Friday as the island's slowly recovers nearly two months after Hurricane Maria made landfall.

In announcing the resignation of Abner Gómez, effective Saturday, Gov. Ricardo Rosselló praised the work of his emergency management chief following Hurricanes Irma and Maria, which both hit in September.

The governor also announced that Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan, whom the Pentagon appointed to lead all military relief efforts, will be reassigned outside the island next week.

    Puerto Rico's power authority says electricity generation stands at about 44%, but it's not clearhow many homes and businesses that power is reaching. And it's uncertain how many of the US territory's roughly 3.4 million citizens remain without power as they struggle through Maria's aftermath.

    A massive power outage also struck the capital of San Juan on Thursday after a major north-south transmission line failed, according to the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, known as PREPA.

    Héctor Pesquera, secretary of Puerto Rico's Department of Public Safety, will take over emergency management duties.

    Rosselló did not give a reason for Gómez's resignation.

    The emergency management director came under fire after the island's El Nuevo Dia newspaper reported that he took a two-week vacation shortly after Maria made landfall on September 20.

    "The cessation of Gen. Buchanan's work does not mean that the military is leaving," Rosselló said in a statement. "His departure marks a positive transition. We have not finished the recovery, but there is progress in the missions that have been carried out."

    A two-star general will replace Buchanan, according to the governor.

    "From my perspective, we've moved out of the crisis," Buchanan told reporters.

    "We're moving out of response and most places are moving on toward recovery. … FEMA is going to be here for very much the long term and the rebuilding effort, and we in the military generally don't do that."

    The changes come as the island's government faces questions about the official death toll of 55 from the massive storm.

    Government officials acknowledged this week that nearly 500 more people died in Puerto Rico in September than in the same month the previous year.

    An official with Puerto Rico's forensics institute told reporters that 472 more people died in September than in the same month in 2016 -- up from 2,366 to 2,838. [more]

    Puerto Rico emergency director resigns; US military effort winds down

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