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President Donald Trump lifted U.S. shipping restrictions on storm-battered Puerto Rico Thursday, removing a legal obstacle blamed for slowing the disaster relief response to Hurricane Maria, the White House said.

Trump waived federal restrictions on foreign ships delivering cargo.

The law, known as the Jones Act, limits the number of ships that can be sent to Puerto Rico, a US territory, and thus the amount of relief supplies that have come in since the hurricane.

The death toll was not as severe as Hurricane Irma - Maria claimed more than 30 lives in the Caribbean, including at least 16 in Puerto Rico. Large numbers of generators are now on Island.

Rihanna is the latest celebrity to urge Trump to do more in response to the storm, along with "Hamilton" creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, rapper Pitbull and actress Jennifer Lopez. Puerto Rico is having no problems getting gasoline, diesel fuel and other supplies to the island, Homeland Security said.

That 1920 law mandates that only American-made, American-owned, American-crewed ships can carry cargo between USA ports, including those in US territories like Puerto Rico. In Puerto Rico, that did not appear to be the case: Thousands of shipping containers full of emergency resources were piling up in the port of San Juan. "The relief effort is under control".

McCain sent a letter to the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Elaine Duke, on Tuesday arguing the Jones Act should be suspended for good. He said more than 40 of the island's 69 hospitals are accepting patients.

"We must all be united in offering assistance to everyone suffering in Puerto Rico and elsewhere in the wake of this awful disaster". He noted Trump had waived a matching funds requirement, which means the cash-strapped island won't have to contribute to the initial costs of the federal assistance. "Now Congress must repeal this law to aid long-term recovery". "It's very hard for them", Lopez says.

In a CNBC phone interview earlier Thursday, Rossello said Puerto Rico's power grid is destroyed, leaving virtually the entire island in the dark. Press secretary Sarah Sanders tweeted Thursday that the waiver will go into effect immediately.


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