An Update On Puerto Rico – Friday, October 13th

By Susan Kuebler

In the series of articles published this week to provide our readers updates on the on-going recovery efforts in Puerto Rico, we have relied on the statistics provided by the Federal Emergency Assistance Agency (FEMA).  While this should be a trusted source of information, which they claim in based on data provided by http://www.status.pr (a site primarily written in Spanish) a cross-check of the numbers shows some disturbing discrepancies.

But first, Donald Trump, after his series of tweets yesterday morning lambasting Puerto Rico and claiming that the U.S. couldn’t stay there “forever” backtracked, as usual this morning:

Note the use of the word “I” once again.  Not that the United States or the people of America will always be with them, but Trump will.  Because everything is always about him. As for the citizens of Puerto Rico, they would probably prefer a chupacabra instead.

But let us take a realistic look at the situation in Puerto Rico, where they stand, and the obstacles they are facing, and how FEMA is distorting the actual picture.

According to FEMA:

“San Juan financial district is back on the grid – 17 percent of customers have electricity.  Note the limited scope of this claim.

According to Puerto Rican authorities:

Only 9 percent of the people on the island have electricity.  That means that 91 percent of the islanders do not have electricity. This includes hospitals and other critical facilities as well.  This figures has been decreasing, not increasing as one might expect.

Speaking of hospitals, FEMA reports that 97 percent of the hospitals are open.  What FEMA fails to mention that of the 72 hospitals that are open, 44 of them are operating solely on generator power.

Regarding the supply of drinkable water, FEMA says that 57 percent of waste water treatment plants are operating on generator power. But Puerto Rico reports that available drinkable water ranges from 29 percent in the south, 39 percent in the west, 69 percent in the east, and 79 percent in the south.  The metro area (San Juan) is doing best at 84 percent. The lack of clean drinking water has led to outbreaks of disease such leptospirosis, a deadly disease spread by dogs and other animals, most likely through contaminated drinking water.

FEMA claims that 100 percent of the federally maintained ports are open, or open with restrictions.  Again, notice the qualifier “federally maintained.”  Puerto Rico says that only 75 percent of their ports are open (October 6th) and as of October 11th only 75 percent of the cargo on ships in port has been unloaded.

Let’s look at some other “claims” that FEMA has made.  On their website they report that cell phone users will not be charged roaming charges.  However, as only 56 percent of the people have access to the internet, 36 percent of the cell towers are operational and a mere 18.9 percent of the cell phone antennas are working, that is practically useless.

The FEMA reports on gasoline stations and grocery stores that are open match up fairly closely with the Puerto Rican figures:

86 percent of grocery stores and 79 percent of retail gasoline stores are open.  What neither of them say is if there is good or gasoline available for purchase at either of these stores.

What FEMA Isn’t Telling Us

The following information comes directly from the official Puerto Rican website.

There are still 108 shelters open, providing housing for 5,414 evacuees.

Only 61.66 percent of the banks are open and there are only 766 ATMs functioning.  It’s impossible to purchase food or other essentials, if they are even available, if you cannot get to your money.  While not stated in the report, it is likely that a high percentage of the working ATMs are in San Juan or other major cities.

While commercial flights are now 100 percent operational, only 51.94 percent (80 out of 154) hotels are open and 77.78 percent (14 out of 18) casinos have reopened.

Puerto Rico has also received 864.234 barrels of diesel fuel and 1,123,698 barrels of gasoline.  Whether or not these are sufficient supplies is not mentioned, but there is a lurking suspicion that if it were good, the FEMA would be posting it on its website.

For those wishing to donate to help the relief efforts in Puerto Rico, here are a couple of sites you might wish to consider:

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