Months after Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico, nearly half the island’s residents are still without power. Despite the Federal Emergency Management Agency sending hundreds of workers to the area to help restore the electrical grid, they’ve been at a loss as to where critical construction items, shipped to the island as part of the recovery effort, have gone.
Now, armed federal agents are reportedly taking the situation into their own hands. Over the weekend, FEMA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began raiding warehouses, where the Puerto Rican Electric Power Authority has been “hoarding” these “critical materials” out of reach of aide workers.
According to The Intercept, FEMA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers used their security details to break into a Palo Seco warehouse where they found hundreds of tension steel sleeves and nearly 3,000 items critical to U.S. contractors who are trying to help Puerto Rico restore power.
Both agencies quickly inventoried and distributed the items.
The Associated Press reported last week that FEMA has been desperately importing electrical rescue crews, trying to get the island back to full power. But the crews themselves have faced a massive shortage of equipment and necessary parts — a shortage which puzzled the emergency management agency which has been importing the parts and materials since just days after Hurricane Maria hit.
The problem seems to be the PREPA, which received the materials but never distributed them. According to reports, PREPA failed to enter into “mutual aid agreements,” that would have allowed the electricity provider to seek help from private utilities in completing the island-wide restoration project.
At the same time, the Intercept reports, the Puerto Rican government is trying to reform PREPA, which seems to be causing more problems than it’s solving.
At least for now, it seems that FEMA and other agencies are getting involved, trying to make sure that crews they manage are fully stocked and supplied so that power can return to Puerto Rico.