As Puerto Rico Again Suffers, an Outrageous Find

A warehouse full of disaster relief supplies from 2017 discovered in island's south
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 19, 2020 7:50 AM CST
Puerto Rico Finds Stash of Squandered Disaster Supplies
A chihuahua sleeps on a cot in a tent city for hundreds displaced by earthquakes in Guanica, Puerto Rico, Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020. A 6.4 magnitude quake that toppled or damaged hundreds of homes in southwestern Puerto Rico is raising concerns about where displaced families will live.   (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)

People in a southern Puerto Rico city discovered a warehouse filled with water, cots, and other unused emergency supplies, then set off a social media uproar Saturday when they broke in to retrieve goods as the area struggles to recover from a strong earthquake. With anger spreading in the US territory after video of the event in Ponce appeared on Facebook, Gov. Wanda Vázquez quickly fired the director of the island's emergency management agency, Carlos Acevedo. The governor said she had ordered an investigation after learning the emergency supplies had been piled in the warehouse since Hurricane Maria battered Puerto Rico in 2017. “There are thousands of people who have made sacrifices to help those in the south, and it is unforgivable that resources were kept in the warehouse,” Vázquez tells the AP.

News of the warehouse spread after online blogger Lorenzo Delgado relayed live video on Facebook of people breaking into the building. The scene became chaotic at times as people pushed their way in and began distributing water, baby food, and other goods to those affected by the earthquake. Delgado later told reporters that he had received a tip about the warehouse, but gave no specifics on when. The mayor of Ponce, María Meléndez, said she had not known about the warehouse. “This is outrageous,” she said. “Everyone knows what us mayors went through after Hurricane Maria to try and get help to our cities and how we’ve worked these weeks to provide basic supplies to people affected by earthquakes. Those involved owe us an explanation.” Ponce is one of several cities in the island’s southern region hit by the recent 6.4 magnitude earthquake that caused more than an estimated $200 million in damage. More than 7,000 remain in shelters.

(Read more Hurricane Maria stories.)

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