FEMA stresses it's not leaving Puerto Rico

Puerto Ricans were alarmed this week to hear that the Federal Emergency Management Agency ...

Posted: Feb 1, 2018 11:10 AM
Updated: Feb 1, 2018 11:10 AM

Puerto Ricans were alarmed this week to hear that the Federal Emergency Management Agency planned to halt new shipments of food and water to the island -- and some assumed that meant FEMA was going to stop providing aid.

"Seriously, are they leaving?" San Juan Mayor Yulin Cruz asked on Twitter on Tuesday.

But FEMA was not planning to leave, nor stop handing out crucial supplies, the agency stressed. Distribution of its stockpiled 46 million liters of water and four million meals and snacks will continue on the island. The agency believes that amount is sufficient until normalcy returns.

Puerto Rico's Secretary of Public Safety and state coordinating officer Hector Pesquera agreed Wednesday that the commonwealth has sufficient supplies -- though he said the day before that "we were not informed that supplies would stop arriving, nor did the government of Puerto Rico agree with this action."

'The numbers just don't add up'

Meanwhile, many Puerto Ricans are still waiting for relief -- and some are skeptical that FEMA's stockpile will be enough.

"The numbers just don't add up," said Jorge Pratts, a full-time volunteer with Operation Blessing, who oversees the US nonprofit's operations in Puerto Rico. The group has distributed 35,000 water filters since Hurricane Maria hit. Pratts was in the town of Salinas on Wednesday, rebuilding a barber shop destroyed in the storm.

Pratts says he still sees people who are desperately in need of water, even in the capital of San Juan.

"The cry for help comes from fathers and mothers, people in their 60s, 70s and 80s," he said. "It's a very, very delicate situation that we're going through. FEMA is not being sensitive at all, and they're not understanding what's going on here."

'We are still in disaster mode'

Utuado, another mountainous community where Maria wiped out bridges and left communities isolated for weeks, is still very dependent on FEMA's relief aid, the mayor says.

Mayor Ernesto Irizarry says 71% of the 33,000 residents do not have power. More than 30% don't have clean water.

"For now, we have enough supplies," Irizarry said.

The mayor says they have enough supplies to last about another week, and he is confident FEMA will continue to provide supplies. But if FEMA's stockpile on the island runs out, his municipality would likely face a "humanitarian crisis."

"Utuado is not in recovery mode," he said. "We are still in disaster mode because we don't have access to basic services."

He was not able to watch President Donald Trump's State of the Union address Tuesday night because he was meeting with a struggling community in Utuado that still does not have access to clean water. Irizarry wasn't surprised that Trump only mentioned Puerto Rico once in his speech and didn't recount any stories from the island like he mentioned from wildfires in California and Hurricane Harvey in Texas.

"He does not know Utuado," Irizarry said. "They didn't take him to towns like Utuado during his visit. They took him to Guaynabo that will never compare to the devastation in my town."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 578494

Reported Deaths: 9202
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion798821282
Lake43601664
Allen31380537
Hamilton27675303
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Elkhart23873336
Vanderburgh18192211
Tippecanoe16999116
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Wayne5811155
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Morgan501485
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Henry483262
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Ohio Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 807293

Reported Deaths: 9990
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin95508704
Cuyahoga80262964
Hamilton59783436
Montgomery40858396
Summit32488697
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Butler29100225
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Wood9742153
Allen9355126
Miami867373
Portage8628104
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Pickaway689050
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Muskingum648939
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Ross518287
Scioto508753
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Mercer419485
Lawrence417051
Sandusky413262
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Seneca404354
Huron399738
Jefferson391565
Belmont378140
Putnam359370
Washington357039
Athens35469
Madison331128
Knox329022
Ashland322538
Fulton319043
Defiance311476
Crawford306769
Preble306434
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Clinton272741
Williams265757
Highland255618
Jackson250743
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Holmes215562
Perry215317
Henry206147
Hardin200932
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Van Wert193744
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Gallia186226
Adams160815
Pike160116
Hocking157423
Carroll143216
Paulding137521
Noble116138
Meigs99021
Monroe93827
Harrison8428
Morgan75826
Vinton64013
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