The Department of Transportation and Public Works informed that 16 bridges suffered damage after Hurricane Fiona struck, but a Center for Investigative Journalism investigation found that this number is wrong and that, from those 16, nine bridges had their strength and stability seriously or severely affected prior to the hurricane that hit Puerto Rico on September 18.
On the fifth anniversary of the devastation caused by Hurricane María, Puerto Rico woke up Monday with a new catastrophe whose dimension remains to be seen as there are still bands of rain expected from Hurricane Fiona.
The Department of Health, responsible for inspecting and approving the emergency evacuation plans of all the island’s hospitals, only keeps them for the three hospitals that it runs. The agency’s Deputy Secretary’s Office for the Regulation and Accreditation of Health Facilities (SARAFS, in Spanish) does not keep a copy of the evacuation plans that it is supposed to have previously evaluated, and that could mean the difference between life and death for patients and employees. The information surfaced as part of a lawsuit in which the Center for Investigative Journalism (CPI, in Spanish) asked the DH for several documents and protocols related to emergency events. “As part of the inspections, SARAFS personnel check that said plans comply with all the established requirements. However, a physical copy, on paper, digital or in any other way stored in an electronic device(s) of these plans is not delivered to SARAFS personnel, nor is it received by said personnel, nor is it retained in the record of the facilities that work in the SARAFS, so the Department of Health does not have them,” according to the certification that the DH submitted to the San Juan Superior Court as part of the case.
The obstacles to guaranteeing services to kidney patients are still there, as LUMA does not give the highest priority when restoring energy to dialysis centers, nor has a patient registry or a comprehensive plan been created to serve the population with the most deaths after Hurricane María.
Invitations to sexual threesomes from bosses, unsolicited comments about clothing, sexual organs and the carrying of firearms, and even forceful kisses in the workplace are some of the types of gender-based violence incidents that Puerto Rican female employees have experienced from supervisors and co-workers in the Puerto Rico office of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which oversees the recovery process after Hurricanes Irma and María made landfall in 2017. The Center for Investigative Journalism (CPI, in Spanish) received and confirmed these confidences through 13 testimonies from people who work or have worked for FEMA in Puerto Rico and who decided to tell their stories after the publication in March of an investigation by this media outlet that revealed a pattern of workplace harassment in the External Affairs Office of the federal agency, with at least six cases officially reported. There is now a total of 16 cases that the CPI has documented, the majority of which are from women who have officially filed complaints against several FEMA workers in Puerto Rico for alleged situations of sexual harassment, workplace harassment, persecution, intimidation, or discrimination due to age and gender during the job recruitment process and promotion. Some of these cases, which took place between 2018 and 2020, have remained unaddressed for more than three years and in certain instances, the employer keeps the people who filed the complaint close to their alleged aggressors and they have not been given any remedies. The CPI requested reactions and interviews on this matter for every claim related to FEMA, both local, regional, and the agency’s central office, but all refused to be interviewed and responded with general statements that do not address the questions asked and the issues reported.
byMartha Bayne and Kari Lydersen | Centro de Periodismo Investigativo and The Chicago Reporter |
Of those who arrived in Chicago affected by Hurricane Maria , only 67 families entered the hotel program of the federal agency, while 155 were located or are on a list for subsidized housing in the city. Others already returned when they did not get where to stay.
Climate change effects like rising sea-level, more rainfall and stronger hurricanes are quickly eroding the coasts of vulnerable Caribbean islands and actively destroying community life and economic activity in plain sight with little to no governmental or international action to protect citizens. Hurricane’s Irma and Maria terribly exposed this institutional neglect in Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, and British Virgin Islands where infrastructure collapsed, and coastal constructions were destroyed by storm surge and erosion. Politics play an important role in lack of action and visibility of these island-colonies -and about 10 others in the region- in official world global warming efforts because their data is not considered and they are not included in their analysis.