A Federal Emergency Management Agency report determined it was unprepared for a hurricane in Puerto Rico, underestimating how much food and water it would need, and how hard it would be to get supplies to the island, The New York Times reported.
According to the Times, the agency’s plans for a crisis were based on a focused disaster like a tsunami, not a hurricane that devastated the whole island.
When Hurricane Maria hit, FEMA’s warehouse in Puerto Rico was nearly empty — the contents given to the Virgin Islands, where a storm hit two weeks before, the report found.
The report assessed the agency’s response to the 2017 storm season, when three major hurricanes slammed the United States in quick succession, leaving FEMA struggling to deliver food and water quickly to victims in Puerto Rico — and confirming criticisms leveled at the agency, the Times reported.
The 2017 hurricane season in the United States was the most destructive on record, with the report finding nearly five million people registered for FEMA assistance last year, exceeding the combined total from four previous major hurricanes. The 2017 storms caused a total of $265 billion in damage, the Times reported.
Although FEMA distributed 130 million meals, 35 million of them in Puerto Rico, the report says the agency took longer than expected to secure supplies and lost track of much of the aid it delivered and who needed it.
The report was expected to be made public Monday, but the agency released it after the Times reported on a draft it obtained in advance.
Bethzaida Crespo told the Times she moved her family to a hotel room in Orlando when her home in Dorado flooded, and got $3,000 for her losses, along with payment for her hotel room. The assistance runs out July 23.
“We’re about to end up on the street,” she told the Times. “Nobody is happy with what is going on here. At the end of the day, there’s no winning. We are always losing.”
The Puerto Rican government has still not finished its own after-action report, the Times reported.