FEMA Left 20,000 Pallets of Water Bottles on Puerto Rico Runway for at Least Four Months
The photos, first reported by CBS Wednesday after going viral on social media the day before, show potentially millions of water bottles sitting on a runway in Ceiba, Puerto Rico nearly a year after the storm.
BREAKING: What may be millions of water bottles. meant for victims of Hurricane Maria, have been sitting on a runwa… https://t.co/kD2lild9hv— David Begnaud (@David Begnaud)1536721756.0
The water bottles were delivered to Puerto Rico by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Director of Disaster Operations Marty Bahamonde confirmed to CBS.
"If [FEMA] put that water on that runway there will be hell to pay ... If we did that, we're going to fess up to it," a senior FEMA official told CBS News' David Begnaud, who has covered the Maria recovery process extensively.
However, in an interview with CBS Thursday morning, FEMA Deputy Administrator Daniel Kaniewski defended the placement of the water bottles.
He said they were excess water bottles not needed during recovery that were taken out of storage and placed on the runway in January to save money.
"I'm confident that those that needed those bottles of water got them during the response phase and these were excess bottles of water that were, again, transferred to save money for the American taxpayer in January," Kaniewski said.
The bottles were transferred to the Puerto Rican government in April, Kaniewski said, according to a transcript of the interview tweeted by Begnaud.
In a video posted on Twitter, Begnaud raised questions about Kaniewski's answers.
"If you're trying to save the taxpayer money, why wouldn't you move it to another facility where you house supplies that can be used in a later disaster?" Begnaud asked.
Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration Executive Director Carlos Mercader confirmed the April transfer in a statement provided to CBS Wednesday.
According to that statement, a career official from Puerto Rico's General Services Administration (GSA) requested the excess water bottles from FEMA on April 17 and the request was granted April 26.
The GSA claimed about 20,000 pallets of water, CBS reported.
On May 30, the government collected some of the water bottles from the landing strip and distributed 732 pallets of water between that date and Aug. 12, the statement said.
The government stopped distributing the bottles when they received complaints about the taste and odor of the water. The Puerto Rican government then decided to test the bottles and return them to the federal government.
The water bottles sat on the runway for four months before being passed off to the Puerto Rican government, according to Kaniewski 's own account.
Challenging Kaniewski's timeline is the statement by a member of the Puerto Rico United Forces of Rapid Action Abdiel Santana, who took the photos of the bottles that began circulating on social media Tuesday.
He told CBS Wednesday he originally noticed the bottles last fall and took photos at the time.
Begnaud said on Twitter that blue shows up on satellite images of the runway starting in January.
The federal government's response to Hurricane Maria has been in the news in recent weeks after the Puerto Rican government raised the official death toll from 64 to 2,975 this August.
San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz criticized his self-congratulatory tone in an interview Tuesday, CNN reported, saying no public official should ever be content with everything they did in response to a disaster.
"But the president continues to refuse to acknowledge his responsibility, and the problem is that if he didn't acknowledge it in Puerto Rico, God bless the people of South Carolina and the people of North Carolina," Cruz said.
In a tweet Thursday, Trump doubled down, denying the accuracy of the revised death toll of nearly 3,000.
"3,000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico," Trump tweeted.
This rejection of the death toll in Puerto Rico, by the President of the United States, rejects facts. https://t.co/rkgoGNwXn7— David Begnaud (@David Begnaud)1536843830.0
Cruz tweeted back her vehement disagreement, The Guardian reported Thursday.
"This is what denial following neglect looks like: Mr Pres in the real world people died on your watch. YOUR LACK OF RESPECT IS APPALLING!," she wrote.
As #HurricaneFlorence Approaches, Document Shows Trump Admin Funneled Nearly $10 Million From FEMA to ICE https://t.co/TBUp734TOF— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1536843732.0
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Where Does the Deficiency Begin?<p>Nobody knows exactly how much vitamin D a person actually needs. The question of when a deficiency starts is correspondingly controversial. However, vitamin D is becoming increasingly popular.Not only is the pseudo-scientific literature on the "sun vitamin" experiencing an upswing, but the number of published studies has also increased enormously in recent years. For example, in 2019 <a href="https://academic.oup.com/edrv/article/40/4/1109/5126915" target="_blank">a study found that</a> Vitamin D is responsible for keeping the skeleton functional and is associated with cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and various types of cancer. <br></p>
An All-Rounder<p>Vitamin D levels in the body rise and fall according to sun exposure. If sufficient UV rays reach the skin, the body is able to produce the vitamin itself. However, the human body only derives an estimated 10 to 20 percent of its daily requirement from food.</p><p>The vitamin D that we synthesize from sunlight or food is not biologically active at first. Before the kidneys can produce the biologically active form of the vitamin, known as calcitriol, and release it into the blood, some metabolic processes must take place beforehand.</p><p>In addition, many organs have receptors to which the precursor of calcitriol binds. Further, this substance is also present in blood.</p><p>From this precursor, the organs then produce calcitriol themselves, which the body then uses for countless other processes in the body. This form of vitamin D thus regulates insulin secretion, inhibits tumor growth, and promotes the formation of red blood cells as well as the survival and activity of macrophages, which are important for the <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/5/7/2502/htm" target="_blank">immune system.</a></p>
Low Vitamin D, Severe COVID-19 Disease?<p>A research study carried out <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352364620300067?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">at the University of Hohenheim</a> has now established a link between vitamin D deficiency, certain previous diseases, and severe cases of COVID-19.</p><p>According to the study, "there is a lot of evidence that several non-communicable diseases (high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome) are associated with low vitamin D plasma levels. These comorbidities, together with the often accompanying vitamin D deficiency, increase the risk of severe COVID-19 events."</p><p>"This statement is completely correct," said Martin Fassnacht, head of endocrinology at the University Hospital of Würzburg. However, he qualifies that it is a pure association, "i.e. a mere observation that these events occur together.</p><p>Dr. Fassnacht is very critical of the hype surrounding vitamin D, but not because he denies the vitamin serves important functions. However, studies on humans have not been able to show that vitamin D has the healing powers many often propagate.</p><p>Fassnacht says, "If you take a closer look, the hopes that the administration of vitamin D has a healing effect have not been confirmed so far."</p>
Association Versus Intervention Studies<p>Many studies on the vitamin are association or observational studies. "By definition, these studies cannot prove the causal relationship, but only point to mere correlations," said Fassnacht. The physician tries to illustrate this with an example:</p><p>"Imagine two groups of 80-year-olds. One group is spry, active and does sports. If you compare them with another group living in nursing homes, the difference in vitamin D levels will be dramatic. Life expectancy would also be extremely different."</p><p>But to try to explain the difference in fitness by vitamin D status alone is far too simplistic. "Vitamin D levels are a good measure of how sick someone is. But not more," says Fassnacht. </p><p>According to Fassnacht, none of the intervention studies carried out to date -- that specifically examined the effect of vitamin D on various diseases -- has been able to confirm the previous association and laboratory studies or the presumed positive effect of vitamin D.</p>
Further Research Is Needed<p>"If a coronavirus infection is suspected, it is therefore absolutely necessary to check the vitamin D status and quickly correct any possible deficit," said the recommendation of the paper published by the University of Hohenheim.</p><p>"Studies are underway to see whether vitamin D helps in COVID-19 infection, but I personally do not believe that this is really the case," says endocrinologist Fassnacht. Nevertheless, he says it is of course useful to carry out these studies.<br></p><p>"I don't want to rule out that there are actually subgroups of people who benefit from an additional vitamin D dose," he says. After all, this has been proven to be the case with a severe deficit.</p><p>In view of the study situation, Fassnacht does not think much of preventive, nationwide vitamin D substitutes. "My belief that the vitamin helps somewhere is very low. But, of course, I can be wrong."</p>
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