Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in September 2017 leaving many without water, electricity, and access to telecommunications. In the worst cases, there were immediate deaths and disease-related post-hurricane casualties. The Bureau of Forensic Sciences in San Juan was assigned the task of confirming storm casualties. But the total number of deaths is unknown as bodies were lost and the shipment of them to the bureau cannot defy the destruction of Puerto Rico’s terrain.
Now, four months after the disaster, many residents still lack running water while others are without electricity but FEMA reports that that number has decreased immensely.
Towns and communities are reportedly being reestablished after FEMA’s four-month intervention. As a result, they intend to withdraw their aid as of today (Jan. 31). The organization says that they no longer think Puerto Rico is in an immediate state of emergency so their mission is accomplished and thus, coming to a halt. NPR reports that one percent of islanders still need food and water but the organization has decided that the number is small enough for the issue to be dealt with internally.
Of the $500 million approved and the 60 million meals distributed, the organization will hand the remainder over to the government and non-profits to distribute. The agency has given the country an additional $3.2 million in unemployment funds to those whose jobs and commutes to them were impeded by the storm and it will now shift its concerns to long-term recuperation.
While many believe that it’s still too soon for FEMA’s departure, FEMA’s Puerto Rico director Alejandro de La Campa says, “The reality is that we just need to look around. Supermarkets are open, and things are going back to normal.” The director is heavily concerned with the redemption of the economy which took a hit when the landscape did.
“If we’re giving free water and food, that means that families are not going to supermarkets to buy,” he said. “We need to create a balance.”
UPDATE: 1/31/18 6:30 PM ET
A spokesperson for FEMA says there were never intentions to end food and water relief to Puerto Rico. “This aid is not stopping,” Mr. Booher said in an interview per The New York Times. “There was no, and is no, current plan to stop providing these commodities, as long as there continues to be an identified need for them.” Money will be delegated to more devastating areas, leaving others without aid. Mayor Carmen Maldonado of Morovis said her area has yet to receive more aid from FEMA.