Vital statistics on Puerto Rico’s recovery from Hurricane Maria are back up after FEMA removed the information from its website on how many people on the island are still without electricity and clean drinking water.
President Donald Trump and his administration have been criticized for the slow pace of recovery after a category 5 hurricane devastated the island’s roads and power grids, creating a humanitarian crisis for the 3.5 million residents who could not access clean water or food.
Critics said the removal of statistics citing how many Puerto Ricans were still struggling to cover their basic needs was an attempt by the Trump administration to cover up the slow pace of recovery — as of Wednesday just 5 percent of residents had electricity.
“The FEMA website now only displays information that casts the recovery efforts in a positive light,” Gizmodo wrote after FEMA deleted the information on Thursday.
When reporters started asking why the information was taken down, a FEMA spokesman pointed out to the Washington Post that the statistics were still available on a Spanish-language site, but by mid-afternoon the next day, the stats had returned — by then 9.2 percent of residents had electricity restored.
Americans have noticed the subpar response in Puerto Rico in contrast to the Trump administration’s handling of relief efforts after Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Hurricane Irma in Florida. Just 33 percent of Americans approve of Trump’s handling of the Puerto Rican disaster relief and 49 percent disapprove, according to recent Associated Press poll. Conversely, 48 percent approve of that, and just 27 percent disapprove.
Trump spins Puerto Rico recovery as positive
Trump has tried to put a positive spin on things by emphasizing the number of federal and FEMA workers on the island (more than 15,000 as of Friday afternoon), the growing number of open grocery stores (65 percent) and strangely enough, he has cited the death toll — which for a long time stood at 16, but on Tuesday jumped to 36.
While visiting the ravaged island, Trump almost gleefully gloated that 16 deaths are far fewer than the more than 1,800 that died during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 — a storm he referred to as a “real catastrophe” — telling Puerto Ricans they should be “very proud.”
“People can’t believe how successful that has been, relatively speaking,” Trump said, speaking of the death toll.
Here's Trump comparing the death count in Puerto Rico to the death count in a "real catastrophe like Katrina" pic.twitter.com/lNCz4wYvMn— Tasneem N (@TasneemN) October 3, 2017