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Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton are urging swift action to help the battered US commonwealth

Puerto Rico's governor: "We need to prevent a humanitarian crisis"

CNN  — 

Hurricane Maria whipped Puerto Rico with Irma-level winds, drenched the island with Harvey-level flooding, crippled communications, decimated buildings and damaged a dam that puts downstream residents at risk of catastrophe.

But help has been slow to come to communities where the devastation is described as “apocalyptic,” officials and residents argue.

Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said the island faces a humanitarian crisis. He urged Congress to approve a commensurate aid package as the US commonwealth, already hammered by a prolonged economic crisis, tries to get back on its feet.

The governor joined others in emphasizing that Puerto Ricans are American citizens.

“We need something tangible, a bill that actually answers to our need right now,” he said. “Otherwise, there will be … a massive exodus to the (mainland) United States.”

Leading Democrats called for swift action to help the island.

Hillary Clinton urged the Defense Department to send a Navy medical ship, while Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called for Republicans to join with Democrats to pass a robust relief package.

“The Trump Administration must act immediately to make available additional Department of Defense resources for search-and-rescue operations, law enforcement and transportation needs,” Pelosi said in a statement. “Our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands deserve to know that their government will be there for them, without question or hesitation.”

White House: Response ‘anything but slow’

President Donald Trump has pledged federal help for Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. A White House official said Trump is planning to visit Puerto Rico, but a date has not been set because of infrastructure concerns on the island.

Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert and FEMA administrator Brock Long were traveling to Puerto Rico, according to White House press secretary Sarah Sanders.

“The federal response has been anything but slow,” Sanders sa