The numbers have gotten even more devastating when it comes to the federal government’s failed response to Hurricane Maria, as a photo suggesting that FEMA may have left millions of water bottles meant for hurricane victims in Puerto Rico on an airport tarmac went viral on Twitter on Tuesday.
By some reports, Hurricane Maria's death toll in Puerto Rico was over 5,740, almost 90 times higher than the government's official count of 64. Thousands still live without power in Puerto Rico nearly a year after the storm.
On Twitter Wednesday morning, though, President Trump said he did “an unappreciated great job” providing U.S. citizens with hurricane relief in Puerto Rico.
With Hurricane Florence forecasted to make landfall in the Carolinas as soon as Thursday, reports also came in last night that the Trump administration had transferred $10 million from FEMA to pay for ICE detention centers.
The story behind how the above water bottle photos came to be is still a bit sketchy. The General Services Administration Administrator for Puerto Rico, Ottmar Chávez, told CBS News that his agency had claimed excess water bottles for delivery from FEMA back in May, but only became aware of the bottles on Tuesday, and he now wants to return them to the agency following complaints about the water's taste and smell. Abdiel Santana, who works with the Puerto Rico state police agency FURA, says he posted the photos to Facebook on Tuesday, having first seen the bottles as far back as October or November of last year.
Nearly a full year after Hurricane Maria, the federal government, FEMA and President Trump have all yet to properly address just how bad the devastation was in Puerto Rico, and how their failure to respond contributed to the suffering.
And while Homeland Security officials claim a “false agenda” on reports of FEMA disaster relief funding being transferred to ICE, ahead of what's sure to be another devastating storm in Hurricane Florence, it's absurd that this trade-off has to happen at all, or if we're being serious, that ICE as an agency even exists in the first place.
It’s clear that FEMA and other federal officials, whose first priority should be the safety of Americans about to face natural disasters, haven’t learned much from their catastrophic last hurricane season, and all we can do is rage on until someone pays attention.