By ROGER CALDWELL
The sun is shining, and Texas and Florida hurricane recovery is no longer headline news. If you were not directly impacted by the storm or other acts of God, your life is starting to return back to normal.
Americans forget so easily, and if they are not personally impacted by an event, they feel there is no need to worry.
The news is now focused on Puerto Rico, and many experts are suggesting if residents can evacuate, they should leave the island. With almost ninety-five (95) percent of the people on the island without electricity, there is a humanitarian crisis, and many people are unable to get water and food. The other US territories that have been devastated by the hurricanes are not even being talked about, and the majority is people of color.
From the president’s opinion and perspective, he thinks the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is doing an excellent job. But many in his administration know FEMA is understaffed, and that is negatively affecting its relief efforts and disaster response. More than a third of its leadership lack full-time status and the Department of Homeland Security, which operates FEMA, are facing an even greater significant leadership shortage.
In the Department of Homeland Security, out of 57 leadership positions, 26 are temporarily filled or remain vacant, and the Department’s head, James Kelly, has been transferred to Chief of Staff for the president. There are 599 key positions that need Senate confirmation; 320 have not been filled, 117 confirmed, and 159 waiting to be confirmed.
While Trump vacationed at his golf clubs the last two weekends, and spent a large portion of his time tweeting about the NFL, people are dying, and begging for help. The problem in Puerto Rico is the distribution system is not functional in many remote and rural towns, as a result of the destruction of the infrastructure. As the situation deteriorates, rhetoric is just hot air, with no substance.
Just because there is very little dialogue about Florida and Texas, there are still major long-term health problems as a result of the hurricanes, and none of our leaders have mentioned the hefty price tag it will take to rebuild communities and people’s lives.
“In the weeks following Hurricane Irma, parts of Florida have been awash in millions of gallons of sewage. Meanwhile, in Texas, oil refineries and chemical plants have dumped a year’s worth of cancercausing pollutants into the air following Hurricane Harvey. In both states, doctors are on the lookout for an uptick in respiratory problems, skin infections, and mosquito-borne diseases brought on by the water and mold the storms left behind,” said Julia Belluz, reporter for Vox.
There are many lessons that have been learned from Katrina and Sandy, and a total of 80 deaths have been reported in Texas after Harvey and at least 42 deaths in Florida as a result of Irma. Katrina took 1,400 lives and Sandy took 117 lives.
Thanks to better preparation, emergency planning, and citizens listening to its political leaders, the community was ready for the storm.
It is too early to give the Federal government a grade for its execution of the hurricane recovery. Trump has given himself and FEMA an A+, but FEMA Administrator William Long said that recovery efforts would take years after the damage from the storm.
Mayor Cruz of San Juan said “Help has not been reaching residents quick enough. FEMA has collapsed and if we don’t get the food and water into people’s hands, we are going to see something close to genocide.”
Something is wrong in America when other countries are not stepping up with a plan to assist the US with resources and manpower. Where is the leadership, and why are other presidents not being called and asked to assist President Trump, who has no idea of what he is doing.
People are dying in Puerto Rico and other US territories, and there appears to be no plan. Heavy equipment and probably 100,000 relief workers and troops are needed in all US territories to reach remote and rural towns. At this point the federal response has been a disaster and really slow, and something must change.