‘Massive Store’ of Rebuilding Materials Withheld from Puerto Rico Hurricane Victims Seized by Armed Federal Agents

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Nearly half of residents on the island are still without power, even though it has been months since Hurricane Maria descended on the area. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) authorities sent hundreds of workers and a range of construction items to help restore the grid as part of the recovery effort, but many critical items had seemingly disappeared.

Over the weekend, members of FEMA and the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) worked to recover the “critical materials,” raiding a warehouse where, according to a report by the Daily Wire, the Puerto Rican Electric Power Authority (PREPA) had been “hoarding” the items, keeping them from reaching aid workers.

The agencies forcibly entered a Palo Seco warehouse, which is owned by the public utility, with the assistance of an armed security detail, finding hundreds of tension steel sleeves and approximately 3,000 items that are needed by contractors tasked with restoring power to Puerto Rico.

After inventorying the materials, the agencies began distributing them to aid workers.

It isn’t clear if the seizure was contentious, though USACE spokesperson Luciano Vera did state that PREPA officials toured the warehouse along with the federal officials, adding, “PREPA has invited FEMA and the Corps to visit its warehouses anytime and to distribute materials as needed.”

FEMA has been sending electrical rescue crews to the island, but the workers have encountered substantial shortages of equipment and necessary materials, an issue that puzzled the agency based on the number of items that have been sent, with the first shipments arriving just days after Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico.

The issue seemed to stem from PREPA failing to distribute the items after the materials were received.

PREPA also did not enter into “mutual aid agreements,” official arrangements that would allow the power provider to request assistance from private utility companies to help with the island-wide power grid restoration project.

The Puerto Rican government has been working to reform PREPA, but those efforts are not yet complete.

PREPA, in previous a statement, had denied any allegations that the organization was lacking in transparency in inventory or accountability regarding the materials.