FEMA officials told CNN Tuesday that they will halt all shipments of food and water to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico, four months after a storms wrecked the island.
Government officials on the island said they had not been aware of the decision, and San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz aired her grievances on Twitter. “Seriously, they are leaving?” she asked in Spanish, then added “This is the kind of indifference that must be stopped. Enough.”
She mentioned several prominent Democratic senators in her tweet, including Kirsten Gillibrand, who will bring Cruz on as a guest on Tuesday night’s State of the Union Speech.
FEMA released a statement responding to the decision stating that “the commercial supply chain for food and water is re-established and private suppliers are sufficiently available that FEMA-provided commodities are no longer needed for emergency operations.”
However, the agency still has 5,000 relief workers on the ground, and is prepared to restart shipments of food and water should that become necessary, according to the same official who told CNN of the plan.
The agency also said they have over 46 million liters of water, 2 million Meals Ready to Eat, and 2 million snack packs on the ground ready for distribution. According to FEMA, Puerto Rico’s relief effort has been “the longest sustained distribution of food, fuel and water in agency history.”
Héctor M. Pesquera, the Puerto Rican government’s public safety secretary and state coordinating officer, stuck up for the island in a public statement. He said the government did not authorize the move by FEMA, and that they are still in talks regarding the transition of responsibilities of relief from the agency onto the government.
According to the power authority, nearly half a million Puerto Rican residents are still without electricity. Many towns on the outskirts of the island are still seriously struggling with shortages of food and water, says Domingo Marqués, a clinical psychologist from San Juan.
FEMA will keep nine regional staging areas open that distribute supplies to the 78 municipalities on the island.