Buzz, Donald Trump, Extreme Weather, Politics, Science, White House

FEMA removes data on water availability in Puerto Rico from website


Damage from Hurricane Maria in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico, on Sept. 26, 2017.

Image: AP/REX/Shutterstock

The Trump administration continues to follow the playbook it has used since moving into the White House — delete or otherwise block easy access to unflattering information on government websites. This strategy is evident at the Interior Department, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), where climate change pages have disappeared, and many other agencies. 

And now, the same thing is happening with Puerto Rico hurricane response efforts. 

Until sometime between Oct. 3 and Oct. 5, one could find information on how many Puerto Ricans were without power and without access to clean water via FEMA’s website. 

But those statistics are no longer readily available, perhaps because it goes against the administration’s narrative that the situation on the ground in Puerto Rico is improving.

According to a report in the Washington Post and an analysis by the watchdog group, Environmental ​Data ​and ​Governance ​Initiative (EDGI), FEMA has removed statistics from its Hurricane Maria webpage that pertain to access to electricity and drinking water. In addition, EDGI wrote that “additional ​statistics, ​descriptive ​bullet ​points, ​and ​images ​were ​also updated.”

According to the EDGI report, one subsection of FEMA data, titled “Power Restoration ​and ​Fuel ​Impacts,” was completely removed, while other bullet points on water access and a logistics snapshot for the storm were taken out as well.  

FEMA Puerto Rico response page on Oct. 3, 2017.

FEMA Puerto Rico response page on Oct. 3, 2017.

FEMA Puerto Rico response page on Oct. 5, 2017.

FEMA Puerto Rico response page on Oct. 5, 2017.

Another section, which stated that 50 percent of Puerto Rico residents have access to drinking water, was removed as well. 

The power and water statistics are now available on a website maintained by Puerto Rico’s governor, Ricardo Rosselló, but that site is in Spanish. 

We’ve reached out to FEMA to find out why the changes were made. 

The disaster response agency told the Washington Post that the information is still available, just not its website.

“Our mission is to support the governor and his response priorities through the unified command structure to help Puerto Ricans recover and return to routines. Information on the stats you are specifically looking for are readily available,” a FEMA spokesman told the Post

The Trump administration has come under criticism for its slow response to the crisis in Puerto Rico caused by Hurricane Maria. In addition, President Donald Trump’s Oct. 4 visit to the island was interpreted by many as insensitive to the plight of millions of Puerto Ricans, since he only toured wealthy, relatively unscathed areas in San Juan. 

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