The FEMA website has been an important tool for keeping Americans up to date on disaster recovery efforts in Puerto Rico. But yesterday, the agency deleted statistics about how many people have access to electricity and clean water on the island. The FEMA website now only displays information that casts the recovery efforts in a positive light.
On Wednesday, just 5 percent of Puerto Rico had electricity and only 50 percent had water. That information was readily available on the FEMA website as late as Wednesday night. But now it’s gone, while more positive information, like statistics about the percentage of hospitals open (92 percent) and the percentage of grocery stores open (65 percent), are still being made available.
The internet archiving tool – The Wayback Machine – gives us a look at precisely what was deleted. As you can see from an October 3rd snapshot, there’s information about water availability, among other things, under the header “Water/Wastewater Impacts.” But today, that section was scrubbed to include just one statistic: the percentage of waste water treatments that are functioning (64 percent).
The same is true of information about power restoration in Puerto Rico. On October 3rd the website showed statistics like the percentage of people with power on the island. That information has been deleted.
Positive statistics about the number of federal staff (14,000) and FEMA personnel (800) on the ground are still available on the website, though it obviously doesn’t mention that it took over a week after Hurricane Marla made landfall for those people to arrive. More information about the airports being open (100 percent) and the miles of roadway cleared thus far (20 miles) are also prominently featured.
Earlier this week the FEMA site used to have an infographic about the recovery efforts, but that image has been replaced by a photo of helicopters delivering relief supplies and another of a Puerto Rican resident hugging a soldier.
A FEMA spokesperson had no explanation for why the federal agency was deleting information from its own site. “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.”
The information might be “readily available.” Just not from anyone in the federal government anymore.
Posted with permission from Latin Times