Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) admits failures occurred in its disaster response to Hurricane Maria, due in part to hurricanes Harvey and Irma hitting the U.S. mainland in the weeks before.
In a new internal report, the agency blamed much of its shortcoming on understaffing during a record-breaking response.
“You know it's going to happen again. If anybody thinks that everything they do is perfect, we're never going to learn,” said Marucci Guzman, from the group Latino Leadership. Guzman visited Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria and said she saw the disconnect between FEMA and supplies survivors needed most.
“I think a lot of the people that left the island left not only because they didn’t have power, but because they didn’t have access to food and clean water,” Guzman said.
FEMA said its policy is to drop supplies at the state or territory’s staging area and allow local officials to distribute them, but the report said FEMA should take on that responsibility if a major event incapacitates local efforts – something the agency admits it failed to do.
The report also said more than 80 percent of supplies stored on the island came to Florida after Hurricane Irma. When Maria hit a few days later, FEMA had little time to replenish it.
More people have requested assistance from FEMA since last August than in the previous 10 years combined, the report said.
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