After Hurricane Maria — a category 4 storm — knocked out power for Puerto Rico’s 3.5 million citizens, the FEMA website became a major lifeline for Americans to stay informed of recovery efforts. However just yesterday vital details vanished from the agency’s website – including statistics on how many people have access to electricity and clean water. Now, only information that showcases recovery efforts in a positive light is available. As a result, it is difficult to know the true extent of damages in Puerto Rico, and how citizens are coping with the aftermath.
On Wednesday, the website clearly stated that 5 percent of Puerto Rican citizens have access to electricity and 50 percent have access to clean water. Later that night, the information was erased. As Gizmodo reports, more “positive” information is now shared, including the percentage of hospitals open (92 percent) and the percentage of grocery stores open (65 percent).
There’s no longer any data on water availability – instead, there’s a new section on “Water/Wastewater Impacts,” and the only thing it reveals is that 64 percent of wastewater treatments are functioning. Also, instead of an Infographic detailing recovery efforts, there is now a photo of helicopters delivering relief supplies and another of a soldier hugging Puerto Rican residents. Information on the number of federal staff (14,000) and FEMA personnel (800) on the ground are still available on the website. Information on open airports (100 percent) and miles of roadway cleared in total (20 miles) is forefront and centered on the website, as well.
When pressed for question, a FEMA spokesperson told The Washington Post that the information is still available on the Spanish website, which Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Rosselló maintains. Reportedly, the FEMA spokesperson had no idea why the federal agency was erasing information from its own site “that made it look bad.”
Some suspect President Trump’s recent visit had something to do with the agency deleting valuable statistics. When Trump visited the island earlier this week, he seemed more concerned with his reputation than actually helping the less fortunate. In fact, Trump “jokingly” told the storm-ravaged people that he was spending too much money on them. “I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you are throwing our budget out of whack,” Trump said. “We’ve spent a lot of money in Puerto Rico.” The President added that Hurricane Maria wasn’t a “real catastrophe” like Hurricane Katrina.
FEMA spokesperson William Booher told The Washington Post: “Our mission is to support the governor and his response priorities through the unified command structure to help Puerto Ricans recover and return to routines. Information on the stats you are specifically looking for are readily available.”