Updating a story we shared last night; and the latest information only makes the situation seem much worse. To say this story is infuriating would be an understatement.
As an individual with some personal knowledge of how the recovery process works, the actions by these government officials in Puerto Rico are beyond tragic. There are people in desperate need, and these stupid claims by officials do nothing to ameliorate ongoing suffering. This is disgusting and heartbreaking at the same time.
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Gov. Wanda Vázquez fired the heads of Puerto Rico’s housing and family departments Sunday in the latest fallout over the discovery of a warehouse filled with emergency supplies dating from Hurricane Maria.
The removal of Housing Secretary Fernando Gil and Department of Family Secretary Glorimar Andújar came a day after the governor fired the director of Puerto Rico’s emergency management agency.
[…] Vázquez said she decided on the additional firings after meeting with leaders of her administration Sunday morning and officials were unable to provide information she requested about other collection and distribution centers.
“They weren’t able to personally tell me specifically where these centers were located, what they contained and whether an inventory was completed,” she said.
Vázquez did not elaborate on why Gil and Andújar were singled out, saying only that she had lost confidence in them. (more)
Inés Rivera, spokeswoman for the city of Ponce, told The Associated Press that the warehouse is owned by Puerto Rico´s Company of Commerce and Export. Officials with the company could not be reached for comment. “The mayor of Ponce, María Meléndez, said he had not known about the warehouse and its contents.”
These are direct lies, demonstrable lies, and they only serve to make matters much worse.
[Hat Tip to Guyver1] The discovered warehouse is owned by the government of Puerto Rico, through a govt. run ‘public corporation’ called the ‘Compañia de Comercio y Exportación de Puerto Rico’ (Puerto Rico Trade and Export Company), founded on December 23, 2003.
The Govt. owned ‘Compañia de Comercio y Exportación de Puerto Rico’ (Puerto Rico Trade and Export Company), is headquartered at the south end of the *SAME* warehouse parking lot.
As you can clearly see above, the government offices (above left) literally share a parking lot with the warehouse (above right) at the Port of Ponce. Any Puerto Rico government official, or Ponce local official, who attempts to deny they knew the location of these supplies and that warehouse is simply lying.
The blogger, Lorenzo Delgado, said he had received a tip about the warehouse but did not specify when. A group of people broke into the warehouse and began distributing supplies to those affected by the recent 6.4 magnitude quake that killed one person and caused damage across Puerto Rico’s southern region. More than 7,000 people remain in shelters as strong aftershocks continue.
Ponce Mayor María Meléndez said she was outraged, noting that she and other mayors were trying to find basic supplies since the quake.
“I spent several days requesting cots and water,” she said. “They sent me to Cabo Rojo for the cots and to San Juan for the water. If I had known that those supplies were there, I would have demanded that they be taken out immediately. ”
When asked how it was possible that she did not know about the existence of the warehouse, Vázquez replied, “That’s what the head of agencies are for … to inform the governor.”
Again, here’s the video.
My estimate as to the size of the warehouse was correct. It’s over 200,000 square feet.
The video shows thousands of pallets, double and triple stacked, of key and essential emergency supplies. Bottled water, shelf-stable food, diapers, baby formula, blankets, tarps, tents, propane grills, propane, emergency lights, 24hr candles, batteries, flashlights, emergency radios, portable charging stations, potable water cans, cots, mattresses, at least four industrial kitchens designed for mass feeding stations and much, much more.
To give you an idea of the scale, there’s at least 100 semi truck loads of supplies in this video, in this single warehouse.
Logistically each trailer would haul 22/24 single stack pallets, 44/48 doubles, or 66/72 triple stacked. With more than a dozen staged pallet jacks, this warehouse is holding serious money.
It is unfathomable these supplies were not distributed; and worse yet were likely being re-sold on the black market.
These emergency supplies and materials were delivered in 2017. In January a magnitude 6.4 earthquake hit Puerto Rico and President Trump authorized an additional $8.2 billion in aid…. When inspecting the building for quake damage the hidden relief supplies were discovered.
I did a Twitter Thread [SEE HERE] with some more specific details of what is identified in that warehouse. Also as a person who has invested a lot of my life in/around these relief efforts it is prudent to be very clear….
The people of Puerto Rico, the actual victims of these terrible disasters, are not to blame for the corruption by government officials. When those in desperate need receive the basic supplies they need to reestablish their lives I have never witnessed anything except profound thankfulness, kindness and sincere appreciation.
That a government, any government, would intentionally withhold these urgent supplies is a representation of them, not the victims from whom those relief supplies are withheld. It breaks my heart to think of the countless families who have suffered at the hands of corrupt government officials.
There is a basic level of humanity and decency that connects all of us, regardless of our geography. In the aftermath of natural disasters there is no class distinction. I have witnessed the very best in people amid relief efforts and seen incredible acts of selflessness from those who -as a daily outlook- have the very least.
What has happened in this example in Puerto Rico does not represent the ordinary people who are doing the best they can each day to keep one foot in front of the other.
I pray those government officials will repent; however, in the meantime just get the supplies distributed…. and if there are more warehouses, get them open and emptied now; deal with the accountability issues later.
First things first – Get the darn help to those who need it.