Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Hurricane Maria Aftermath: FEMA Admits to Deadly Mistakes in Puerto Rico

Climate
Hurricane Maria Aftermath: FEMA Admits to Deadly Mistakes in Puerto Rico
Many roofs were torn off when high winds from Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico. U.S. Air Force photo by A1C Nicholas Dutton

The Federal Emergency Management Agency was sorely unprepared to handle Hurricane Maria and the subsequent crisis in Puerto Rico, the agency admitted in an internal performance assessment memo released last week.

FEMA's after-action report details how the agency's warehouse on the island was nearly empty due to relief efforts from Hurricane Irma when Maria made landfall last September, with no cots or tarps and little food and water.


The report finds that the agency was severely understaffed and relied on "underqualified" staffers, and that leadership lacked key information on the island's infrastructure both before and after the storm. The report advises that communities and families in remote areas must prepare independently of the agency for future weather disasters.

As reported by NPR:

President Trump, at one point, responded to questions about the response, saying, Puerto Ricans, quote, "want everything done for them." And San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, who ended up in her own verbal battle with Trump, said she believes this report shows FEMA was negligent in how it responded to the island. Inside the agency, FEMA Administrator Brock Long, published a response acknowledging that the agency had work to do. He said the report gives FEMA the, quote, "opportunity to learn from the 2017 hurricane season and be more prepared for the next one." And that hurricane season is now a month underway.

The New York Times editorial board described FEMA's response as "tragically inadequate" and warned that the agency must do better:

There can be no excuse next time for the sort of incompetence and chaos that marked FEMA's work on Puerto Rico. But there is another lesson that does not figure into FEMA's account.
Many mainland Americans persist in regarding Puerto Ricans as second-class citizens. The condescension with which Puerto Rico is too often held was clearly behind President Trump's downplaying the disaster and his complaints about the cost, and most likely behind the radically underreported casualties.
When the next killer storms strike, and they will, all Americans should be secure in the knowledge that their government, local and federal, will be there ready and able to help.

For a deeper dive:

New York Times, NPR, ABC, Frontline, Huffington Post. Commentary: New York Times editorial

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, and sign up for daily Hot News.

Rise and Resist activist group marched together to demand climate and racial justice. Steve Sanchez / Pacific Press / LightRocket / Getty Images

By Alexandria Villaseñor

This story is part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.

My journey to becoming an activist began in late 2018. During a trip to California to visit family, the Camp Fire broke out. At the time, it was the most devastating and destructive wildfire in California history. Thousands of acres and structures burned, and many lives were lost. Since then, California's wildfires have accelerated: This past year, we saw the first-ever "gigafire," and by the end of 2020, more than four million acres had burned.

Read More Show Less
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland announced a pair of climate-related secretarial orders on Friday, April 16. U.S. Department of the Interior

By Jessica Corbett

As the Biden administration reviews the U.S. government's federal fossil fuels program and faces pressure to block any new dirty energy development, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland won praise from environmentalists on Friday for issuing a pair of climate-related secretarial orders.

Read More Show Less
Trending
David Attenborough narrates "The Year Earth Changed," premiering globally April 16 on Apple TV+. Apple

Next week marks the second Earth Day of the coronavirus pandemic. While a year of lockdowns and travel restrictions has limited our ability to explore the natural world and gather with others for its defense, it is still possible to experience the wonder and inspiration from the safety of your home.

Read More Show Less

By Michael Svoboda

For April's bookshelf we take a cue from Earth Day and step back to look at the bigger picture. It wasn't climate change that motivated people to attend the teach-ins and protests that marked that first observance in 1970; it was pollution, the destruction of wild lands and habitats, and the consequent deaths of species.

Read More Show Less
An Amazon.com Inc. worker walks past a row of vans outside a distribution facility on Feb. 2, 2021 in Hawthorne, California. PATRICK T. FALLON / AFP via Getty Images

Over the past year, Amazon has significantly expanded its warehouses in Southern California, employing residents in communities that have suffered from high unemployment rates, The Guardian reports. But a new report shows the negative environmental impacts of the boom, highlighting its impact on low-income communities of color across Southern California.

Read More Show Less