On Saturday, Puerto Rico’s Governor fired the island’s emergency manager for corruption, “hours after a warehouse filled with supplies was discovered.” Instead of being handed out to people in need, it’s been sitting around collecting dust since Hurricane Maria hit two years ago.
This isn’t the first time an incident like this has happened. In 2018, FEMA had to bring the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, along with their armed security detail, to rescue supplies needed to restore power from a hidden warehouse.
Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced terminated Carlos Acevedo, who had been director of the territory’s Office of Emergency Management. To replace him, she tapped Maj. Gen. José J. Reyes, the adjutant general of the Puerto Rico National Guard.
“Numerous pallets of water and other boxes with emergency supplies” were discovered abandoned in a warehouse after recent earthquakes devastated the nearby village of Ponce.
Since December 28, the unlucky island has been struck by a series of earthquakes, tremors, and aftershocks that damaged or destroyed hundreds of structures. 8,000 people have been living in outdoor shelters.
When local residents spotted the unused supplies, they rushed to roll up the metal doors and drag in authorities to pass out the provisions. It didn’t take long for families to start lining up. Local news WAPA reports that they were “hoping to get bottled water, food and emergency radios.”
Acevedo denies he did anything wrong. Though some speculate he intended to sell the goods on the black market, he says “the agency has been actively distributing supplies.” An official statement assures that “no residents have been denied any supplies in the warehouse, including food, diapers, baby formula and cots.”
Acevedo claims, “about 600 pallets of water were distributed when Hurricane Dorian and Hurricane Karen threatened Puerto Rico and during a drought that affected the island last year. Nearly 80 of those pallets remain in the warehouse because they expired.”
“There have not been orders to seize or destroy those items at any point,” he added.
The Governor started an investigation. A preliminary report is expected in 48 hours. “There are thousands of people who made sacrifices to bring aid to the south and it’s unforgivable that resources have been kept in a warehouse,” she announced.