At some point this week, the Federal Emergency Management Agency removed information from its website documenting how much of the island of Puerto Rico still lacked power or access to drinking water. Instead, our Jenna Johnson reported, the federal agency was relaying only positive information, documenting how many federal workers were on the ground and the extent to which roads had been cleared.
The reason for burying the bad news — fewer than 1 in 8 Puerto Ricans have electricity and barely over half have water — seems pretty obvious. President Trump has faced a great deal of criticism for his handling of the crisis on the island. (A poll released this week found that fewer than a third of Americans thought Trump was handling the Puerto Rico response well.) By conveying information that suggests the island is still struggling, which it very much is, FEMA would only be reinforcing that perception.
The government of Puerto Rico, however, is updating this information at the site Status.pr. There, you’ll see regular updates on a number of metrics, including electricity, water and cellphone coverage. It’s updated regularly — although it is in Spanish by default and lacks the trend over time.
We’ve taken that data for the past week or so and created a tool that will show you not only the status of each of the metrics tracked by Status.pr but also how those numbers have improved (or haven’t) over time. It updates every hour, showing the most recent numbers for any given day.
Experts predict that it will take months to repair the electrical grid enough that most residents of the island have power. For months, then, the numbers above will be below 100 percent, a constant reminder of how much work the administration still has to do before Puerto Rican society has been restored to where it was before Hurricane Maria hit.
FEMA would rather not broadcast that slow progress. So we will.
Update: Johnson notes that the data are back on the FEMA website — though hard to find.
Looks like the statistics on the percentage of Puerto Rico that has water and power are once again on FEMA website: https://t.co/C3jDm3h45A
— Jenna Johnson (@wpjenna) October 6, 2017
A statement from FEMA explains why the data were missing.
— Eileen Lainez (@FEMAspox) October 6, 2017
This article has been corrected to note that Status.pr is also available in English.