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FEMA Scrubs Data About Puerto Rico's Lack of Water and Electricity

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Sgt. Jose Ahiram Diaz-Ramos/Flickr

On Wednesday, roughly two weeks after Hurricane Maria struck, just 50 percent of Puerto Rico had access to drinking water and only 5.4 percent had electricity. That information was clearly displayed on Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) website on disaster relief efforts in the U.S. territory.

But the next day, as first noticed by the Washington Post, those two critical pieces of information were removed from the website.


FEMA explained to the Post that the information is still available in Spanish on a website maintained by the Puerto Rican government, www.status.pr. However, there was no comment about why the information was deleted from the main FEMA page.

FEMA webpage on Oct. 3 about recovery efforts in Puerto Rico (highlighted section from EcoWatch)

"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" on the website maintained by Gov. Ricardo Rosselló's office, FEMA spokesman William Booher said.

FEMA page as of Oct. 6

The Environmental Data and Governance Initiative (EDGI), which has been closely tracking changes to federal websites since President Trump took office, confirmed the Post's report and said the webpage was most recently altered some time between Oct. 3, 8:51 p.m. and Oct. 5, 5:16 p.m. Eastern Time, according to the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine.

EDGI also noted in its own report that:

Between these versions, the "Federal Response Updates" section was changed, with updates to statistics, descriptions of emergency logistic and impact information, and images. One subsection, which previously reported on electricity access, titled "Power Restoration and Fuel Impacts" was removed entirely. Other bullet points, including one reporting on water access, and a schematic titled "LOGISTICS SNAPSHOT for HURRICANE MARIA" were also removed. This report only examines changes to the "Federal Response Updates" section.

President Trump and his administration have received intense criticism over his handling of the crisis in Puerto Rico as recovery efforts moves at a "glacial pace."

In a memo to colleagues leaked this weekend by Axios, Homeland Security adviser Tom Bossert instructed the White House how to "pivot" White House messaging on Puerto Rico this week, emphasizing that "the storm caused these problems, not our response to it."

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