Puerto Rico is Still Struggling
The humanitarian crisis continues in Puerto Rico- is there something nefarious standing in the way of actual help? Shipments of aid have been blocked from reaching the west side of the island, and inexpensive flights into Puerto Rico have been difficult to find. There are literally tons of supplies sitting in hangars, being dumped in “bins” or dumpsters, and flights being blocked from going to the west side of the island where Hurricane Maria did the most damage.
FEMA “Co-opting” privately gathered supplies
We spoke to Bill Simmons from Oath Keepers, who told us that their donated supplies were sitting in an airplane hangar and not being disseminated- even re-packaged and re-labeled by FEMA. Thousands upon thousands of medical supplies that were donated by Puerto Ricans in Philadelphia are still sitting in a warehouse because they can’t get a flight. Likewise there are tons of supplies waiting in Florida as well. And that’s not counting the ones waiting in Puerto Rico for dissemination.
Bill told us that they had to have people on the ground with the supplies or they would be gone, taken by FEMA. That sentiment was also expressed by at least two other disaster relief workers.
In the event that people just don’t know the “rules,” we reached out to FEMA and asked what the rules are for packaging donations, how they disseminate donations, etc. We were re-directed to their press person’s email the first time. The response we received a few days later was this:
You can make up your own minds about that response.
Mishandling of supplies by unknown person(s)
In the video below, perfectly good food and supplies were found in a garbage dump truck, and exposed to rats and rain in Patilla, Puerto Rico. Spoiled food. And that’s just the tip of this extremely huge iceberg. Who did this? Currently, that’s a mystery.
“We got tipped about the mishandling of some of the supplies in a distribution center in Patilla, and we were able to corroborate what we didn’t want to see. In a garbage dump truck we found pallets full of meals ready to be distributed at one time but now all spoiled. They were left under the rain in the open air under the sun subject to rodents and animals.” Luis Rivera Marin, Puerto Rico Secretary of State
— David Begnaud (@DavidBegnaud) October 17, 2017
One of the disaster relief workers told us that the US Military has been helping and even preventing some of the supplies from being taken by what the people believed were FEMA workers. One airplane hangar full of pallets of water was about to be “co-opted,” when the owner of the pallets realized that he had been re-directed to the wrong hangar. As he found the correct one, three USAF servicemen came with him and prevented the FEMA workers from loading them up and taking them to an undisclosed location.
We will continue to follow this situation in Part II, as well as numerous reports of blocking supplies from getting to the needed areas. Absolutely, there are people being helped daily on the island by groups on the ground. There simply appears to be some giant sized holes in the process.