Puerto Ricans Furious After Discovering Warehouse Full Of Hidden Emergency Supplies
The governor of Puerto Rico has fired the island’s emergency manager just hours after undistributed Hurricane Maria supplies were discovered in a warehouse.
On Saturday, January 18, numerous pallets of water and other boxes of emergency supplies were found by residents in Ponce, which was devastated by the category five storm in 2017.
Furious residents could be seen opening the metal doors of the warehouse and calling for authorities to distribute the supplies, with Puerto Rico having been hit by its strongest earthquake in more than 100 years less than two weeks ago.
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Puerto Rico has been hit by a series of earthquakes since December 28, with tremors and aftershocks destroying or severely damaging hundreds of structures in the past two weeks.
The south of the island was the hardest hit by a 6.4 magnitude earthquake on January 7, with dozens of homes collapsing and thousands of people forced to flee their homes, sleeping outside or in their cars in the days since.
As Saturday progressed, a number of residents could be seen lining up outside the warehouse, hoping to get bottled water, food and emergency radios.
Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced said the emergency aid found in the warehouse is alleged to have been sitting there, undistributed, for more than two years.
Carlos Acevedo, director of Puerto Rico’s Office of Emergency Management, was dismissed on Saturday after the supplies were discovered. Acevedo has denied allegations of mishandling, saying the agency has been actively distributing supplies.
He said no residents have been denied any supplies in the warehouse, including food, nappies, baby formula and cots, according to a statement released through the office of emergency management, as per CNN.
The emergency manager also said approximately 600 pallets of water were distributed when Hurricane Dorian and Hurricane Karen threatened Puerto Rico, and when a drought affected the island last year. Nearly 80 of those pallets remain in the warehouse because they expired, he said.
Garced has directed Secretary of State Elmer Roman to investigate the allegations and share his findings within 48 hours.
The governor said in a statement (translated to English):
This afternoon, I have ordered the secretary of state, Elmer Roman, to conduct a thorough investigation into allegations of mishandling of supplies in a warehouse in Ponce, where it is alleged that there were supplies since the passage of Hurricane Maria.
This investigation must include an inventory of this warehouse and any other that exists… There are thousands of people who have made sacrifices to bring help to the south and it is unforgivable that resources have been kept in a warehouse.
Yesterday, Garced also fired Housing Secretary Fernando Gil and Department of Family Secretary Glorimar Andújar, after officials were unable to provide information about other collection and distribution centres.
‘There have been actions by government officials that have been completely unacceptable,’ she said on Sunday, as per Business Insider.
More than 8,000 people continue to reside in outdoor shelters in the cities of Yauco, Peñuelas, Guánica, Guayanilla and Ponce – some of them too afraid to return home for fear their homes will collapse.
Our thoughts are with all of those affected by the earthquakes.
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