U.S. to boost military personnel in Puerto Rico - senator

Soldiers of Puerto Rico's national guard distribute relief items to people, after the area was hit by Hurricane Maria in San Juan, Puerto Rico September 24, 2017. REUTERS/Alvin Baez

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States plans to have 17,000 military personnel in Puerto Rico to aid disaster recovery efforts after Hurricane Maria, a Democratic senator briefed on the plan told reporters on Saturday.

Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal, speaking to news media after a bipartisan Congressional visit to the island, said Brigadier General Jose Reyes, Assistant Adjutant General of the Puerto Rico National Guard, told Blumenthal that "there will be 17,000 military personnel," including 8,600 National Guard troops from 13 U.S. states.

"That's a tremendous ramp-up," Blumenthal said.

U.S. Defence Secretary Jim Mattis testified in Congress on Tuesday that there are "over 10,000 troops" in Puerto Rico.

Blumenthal did not specify when the rest of the military personnel would arrive, but Republican Senator Cory Gardner, speaking at the same news conference, said the plan to bring in more National Guard forces is "an assessment that has been made by the Department of Defence and...is currently underway."

(Reporting by Yeganeh Torbati; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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