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Report: FEMA Took Weeks to Get Food, Water to Puerto Rico

Provisions delivered to island included candy and cookies
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 1, 2020 2:10 PM CDT
Report: FEMA Took Weeks to Get Food, Water to Puerto Rico
Jonathan Aponte walks with a gas can up the road to his home in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico, in September 2017.   (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

A US government report published Thursday found that the Federal Emergency Management Agency mismanaged the distribution of goods in Puerto Rico after hurricanes Irma and Maria, leading to delays in the delivery of food and water. The Office of the Inspector General said that it took more than two months on average for the goods to reach their final destination, and that FEMA lost sight of nearly 40% of its shipments to the US territory that were worth more than $250 million. Some 98% of those shipments were meals and water, according to the report. "Given the lost visibility and delayed shipments, FEMA cannot ensure it provided commodities to Puerto Rico disaster survivors as needed to sustain life and alleviate suffering," the report stated. Officials said goods sat in FEMA's custody for roughly 48 days, the AP reports, with water and food experiencing shipping delays of 71 and 59 days respectively.

The office said its survey found it took FEMA an average of 10 days after the hurricanes to deliver the first food and water to survivors. Officials noted that while goods were airdropped immediately, "the quantities were insufficient to meet the survivors' needs." In addition, 40% of Puerto Rico’s municipalities said they had problems with expired food, and the report found that food delivered included candy, cookies, and other snacks lacking nutritional value. "FEMA faced tremendous challenges meeting mission requirements because of the catastrophic nature of Hurricane Maria and multiple, concurrent, nationwide disasters," the report stated. Officials noted that Puerto Rico's government did not properly track the supplies it received. FEMA agreed with four of the office’s five recommendations but rejected findings on the distribution of goods. The agency said it delivered 63.6 million meals and 74 million liters of water from September 2017 to April 2018.

(More FEMA stories.)

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