Many of Puerto Rico’s 3.4 million residents remain without electricity or safe drinking water weeks after Hurricane Maria hit the island. But FEMA has determined this information is not important enough to be on its website.
FEMA, which stands for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, was reporting this information up until as recently as Wednesday, an archive of its webpage regarding Maria from that day shows. Now the page continues to feature other information about Puerto Rico’s recovery, but these dire data are absent.
A FEMA spokesperson told The Washington Post that the information can still be found on www.status.pr, a website run by the office of Puerto Rico’s governor, Ricardo Rosselló. At the time of this report, 9.2 percent of residents have access to power and 54.2 percent have access to safe drinking water.
Bill Booher, the spokesperson who spoke with The Post, did not provide a reason as to why those two pieces of information specifically were removed, according to the publication.
But the information still maintained on FEMA’s website appears to paint the territory’s recovery in perhaps a more positive light. For instance, all airports are now open, with or without restrictions. The majority of hospitals and dialysis centers are now open, along with 65 percent of grocery stores.
However, the site run by the governor’s office also notes that of the 64 hospitals, just 25 are running on electrical power. Additionally, only 13.7 percent of cellular antennas are functional, and just about a quarter of residents have mobile phones.
“I think it’s now acknowledged what a great job we’ve done,” Trump said during his visit to Puerto Rico, which he treated as a publicity stunt rather than a response to a natural disaster.
President Donald Trump made a visit to the island Tuesday (about two weeks after the hurricane hit) — two days before the data reportedly disappeared from FEMA’s website. During the trip he told residents they “really got hit” and are “throwing our budget out of whack” while simultaneously minimizing the tragedy:
“Now, I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you’re throwing our budget a little out of whack, because we’ve spent a lot of money on Puerto Rico. And that’s fine — we’ve saved a lot of lives. If you look at the … Every death is a horror. But if you look at a real catastrophe like Katrina, and you look at the tremendous hundreds and hundreds of hundreds of people that died, and you look at what happened in here, was really a storm that was just totally overpowering, nobody’s ever seen anything like this. Now, what is your, what is your death count as of this moment, 17?”
Rosselló told Trump the death toll stood at (at the time) 16.
“Sixteen people, certified. Sixteen people versus in the thousands. You can be very proud of all of your people — all of our people working together.”
Following Trump’s departure, Rosselló reported the number of deaths had actually climbed to 34.
After Trump’s trip he tweeted about the media covering fake news stories regarding the United States’ efforts to help Puerto Rico.
“A great day in Puerto Rico yesterday. While some of the news coverage is Fake, most showed great warmth and friendship.”
Trump is not the only one downplaying the devastation. Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, said earlier this week on CNN that the media is spreading “fake news” about the recovery efforts in Puerto Rico.
“All y’all show is the bad stuff,” Mulvaney said. “We spent several hours on the island [Tuesday] afternoon, got a chance, for example, to be briefed by the Army Corps of Engineers, the folks working on the electrical grid on all the work that they are doing, on everything that is going right — and by the way, some of the efforts down there are absolutely fantastic.”
“There’s a lot of good things happening,” he added, “I think the president’s frustration, our frustration, as an administration, is that the media seems to only want to focus on the bad things and not show both sides of the story. I think that’s a fair frustration to have.”
“It’s not a controversy,” host Chris Cuomo said, pointing out that Mulvaney’s comments sounded “self-serving.”
“It makes people not believe the need, Mick,” he added, saying, “The need is real. That’s not just the bad stuff; it’s the reality, Mick.”