Alejandro de la Campa, director of FEMA in Puerto Rico, said that after Hurricanes Harvey in Texas and Irma in Florida, stores of these special tarps did not have enough to send immediately to the island. (semisquare-x3)
Alejandro de la Campa, director of FEMA in Puerto Rico, said that after Hurricanes Harvey in Texas and Irma in Florida, stores of these special tarps did not have enough to send immediately to the island. (Archivo GFR Media)

The difficult challenges of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) appears within the enormous amount of figures that arise from the operation that takes place in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.

According to the Puerto Rican government, there are over 250,000 houses damaged by the cyclone. For these structures, FEMA provides special tarpaulins that are installed by the United States Army Corps of Engineers.

The problem is that there was not enough stock for the emergency ... neither in Puerto Rico nor in the United States.

Alejandro de la Campa, director of FEMA in Puerto Rico, said that after Hurricanes Harvey in Texas and Irma in Florida, stores of these special tarps did not have enough to send immediately to the island.

"I am going to be clear. Not even in the United States. Due to the events that have occurred, factories had to start producing them, "De la Campa said.

"We are talking about that, before the end of this month, we can have half a million that we will be able to distribute throughout island so that no house is left without them," he added.

"That is one of the challenges we have with logistics in Puerto Rico because we are an island and everything has to come in barges or planes."

According to De la Campa, to redress the situation, FEMA bought regular, less thick tarps to multinational retailers like Wallmart and K-Mart.

"We have already installed 176 ( of the Corps of Engineers´tarps), but we have provided about 36,000 of the others (regular ones)," De la Campa informed.

FEMA in figures

As of last Friday, FEMA had 1,549 people working in Puerto Rico. De la Campa said that this staff is added to "about 2,000" of other federal agencies that have been sent to the island, in addition to the "over 13,000" military personnel brought in by the United States Department of Defense. "So it's over 16,000 who are working with this event," he said.

Meanwhile, he said that "this very week" they will begin to call the people selected to work with FEMA

"We are talking about a number that is significant because we are going to recruit over 2,000 people," he reiterated. "Among those who applied in Ponce and those we have on the internet, we are talking about 30,000 applications," he noted.

Food supplies have been a first priority for this staff in the past weeks.

"We have already managed to distribute over eight million  food rations throughout the island and over 6 million liters of water," said De la Campa, who recalled that in addition to arriving at municipal collection centers, they worked with the military to go directly to communities in isolated areas.

He also reiterated that although non-governmental organizations have prepared "over 100,000 hot meals," starting this week we will change the strategy to make more of that type of meals, rather than so-called "ready to eat foods."

He assured that they have reached the 78 municipalities, but said that they need the help of the mayors to identify isolated sectors.


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