Weeks after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, U.S. military veterans volunteering on the island have reached out on social media to paint a bleak picture of the recovery efforts, despite President Donald Trump’s claims that it’s all going very well.
On Tuesday, author and scientist Lucian Randolph tweeted out a series of short video clips he had received from some of the military veterans who are currently in Puerto Rico to provide humanitarian aid to inhabitants of the hurricane-ravaged nation. Volunteers allege that the situation on the ground is not at all like what is being reported by the White House.
At least 43 Puerto Ricans have died, and hundreds were injured during the ferocious storm. In its wake, locals have been left destitute, without food, water, and electricity.
The topographical destruction inflicted by Hurricane Maria has made it nearly impossible for volunteers to reach areas where people are trapped and most severely affected by the resource shortages.
According to a report in the New York Times, countless families have been left homeless by unpredictable landslides and hurricane winds. Access to water was becoming such a hurdle that relief volunteers have had to ration what little water they have into small cups, along with meager portions of necessary food.
One of the local mayors, Edwin Soto Santiago, says that his office has been waiting for food and water — sent by the American federal government — that is currently stuck in distribution centers that cannot be accessed due to the perilous terrain.
These reports seem to confirm what the military vets have said in the video clips posted onto Twitter by Mr. Randolph.
Despite the conflicting reports coming from Puerto Rico, President Trump on Monday tweeted an 8-minute-long promotional video allegedly showing scenes of U.S. relief progress on the wrecked island. However, the Washington Post has managed to track down the original clips which reveal a different side of the story.
According to the Post, a clip showing people clearing fallen woodland debris is abruptly cut off while the local Forest Service’s chief is talking. “Had the road-clearing clip continued for 15 seconds,” writes the Post, “the president’s millions of Twitter followers would have heard the fire chief praise the people of Puerto Rico for successfully clearing many roads before the federal government arrived.”
It is unclear whether the omission of the latter part of the interview was deliberately edited out, but runs contrary to the criticism Trump has been heaping on Puerto Rican’s for allegedly being slow to respond to the disaster.
The also contains a montage showing towers of bottled water, helicopters carrying debris and food, boats with medical supplies and trucks transporting diesel. The clip shows mainly U.S. federal agents and not any Puerto Rican victims, and the final stretch of the video focuses on Trump’s 4-hour-long visit to the island.
During President Trump’s visit to San Juan, he reportedly did not go to the areas that were severely hit, which is a much more significant portion of the island. Instead, the president told locals that they no longer had any use for flashlights, he showed disgust when he was shown how water purification is achieved, and he tossed paper towels to locals like they were basketballs.
Moreover, Trump asserted that Puerto Rico’s death toll was “much lower than that of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.”
The Washington Post notes that “statistics about access to power and drinking water in Puerto Rico disappeared from FEMA’s main information page about Hurricane Maria but were restored” following a report in the same paper.
San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz hit back at Trump for his earlier criticism of Puerto Rico’s internal handling of the disaster, tweeting that even as more electricity is being cut off from emergency areas, the U.S. federal government did “NOTHING!”
“Increasingly painful to undestand the american people want to help and US Gov does not want to help. WE NEED WATER!”
The president has allegedly reacted peculiarly in the wake of Hurricane Maria, as reported by Bloomberg.
Trump has been more focussed on an ongoing feud with the NFL, he’s enjoyed weekend vacations playing golf for three weeks in a row following the hurricane, he’s blamed Puerto Ricans for hampering recovery efforts and even cited a false story about the tardiness of local trucks. Bloomberg adds that the president also mocked the Puerto Rican accent.
In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, President Trump donated $1 million to the relief aid but has thus far not given to the Puerto Rican crisis, nor has he promoted funding efforts to the public. He also hasn’t acknowledged the fact that five former presidents have mobilized considerable charities to help Puerto Rico.
Meanwhile, below are the video clips that were recorded by U.S. military vets currently in Puerto Rico, claiming that they are desperately struggling to lend aid to the locals because of a lack of support and coordination from the federal government.
Despite claims by FEMA officials that they have not encountered similar problems distributing supplies as they had in Texas and Florida, most Puerto Rican cities have reported very few deliveries.
“I received 10,000 meals so far, and we’re a city of 54,000,” said Cánovanas Mayor Lornna Soto. “We need more water. We need more food.”
Local families expressed frustration at the lack of coordination in the process of receiving food, claiming that deliveries were left to chance.
After the video clips were circulated widely online, the volunteers posted a message of thanks but included that they were still in dire need of support that they are reportedly not getting from the federal government.
[Featured Image by Win McNamee/Getty Images]