Puerto Rico Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced fired the island’s emergency management director on Saturday, after a video showing aid sitting unused in a warehouse went viral on social media. Some of the aid has allegedly been sitting in the warehouse since Hurricane Maria struck in 2017.
“There are thousands of people who have made sacrifices to help those in the south, and it is unforgivable that resources were kept in the warehouse,” Vázquez said in a statement.
Garced said in a statement that she has ordered Secretary of State Elmer Roman to conduct a “thorough investigation into the mishandling of emergency aid in a warehouse in Ponce,” CBS News correspondent David Begnaud reports.
“I have given 48 hours for this investigation. The investigation is to include this warehouse and any others which may exist,” her statement read. “In the same vein, I have decided to relieve Carlos Acevedo of his duties as the commissioner of the National Emergency Management and Disaster Relief Agency.”
Vázquez said she would nominate the current Puerto Rican National Guard chief Major General José J. Reyes for Senate consideration to replace Acevedo.
Earlier on Saturday, Acevedo said it was “insane” to imply the aid was mishandled.
Acevedo said in a statement that after the earthquake, the warehouse had been inspected by a structural engineer who “recommended emptying it due to the damage suffered after the event.” According to Acevedo, the Fire Department Bureau removed and distributed aid from the warehouse to those affected by the earthquakes.
“There are still pallets of food, water, diapers, and baby formula, cots and awnings in the warehouse. At no time has it been ordered to seize or destroy those items,” reads his statement.
“It is of utmost importance to emphasize that no citizen has been denied any of the items stored at the warehouse,” he said. “At the moment there is no shortage of any of these articles and they are being distributed to the people who need it, this may be corroborated in the shelters and base camps.”
“The citizen who entered the property today, and shared the images on social networks, violated the security perimeter, which in turn, represented a risk for him. For this reason he was instructed to leave the area. Any personnel entering that structure, which is compromised, requires specific security measures to ensure their safety.”
Sunday afternoon, Vázquez said she will hold a press conference shortly before 5 p.m. local time at the emergency operations center that is now in Reyes’ hands.
A 4.7 magnitude earthquake hit Puerto Rico on December 28, kicking off a series of seismic events on the island. More than 2,000 tremors have occurred since the original quake, leaving the island’s three million people in fear, and wanting for aid.
Puerto Ricans were waiting to see if President Trump would sign a major disaster declaration to authorize the much needed aid. Nine days after Vázquez submitted the request, the president signed the declaration. One day prior, the Trump administration released $8.2 billion in heavily restricted aid to the island.
Thousands of people are still in shelters, while many others are still sleeping outside.