WASHINGTON – The Trump administration, criticized for its slow response to hurricane victims in Puerto Rico, said Friday it had restored an online tally of how many people have access to clean drinking water and electricity. The figures had quietly disappeared from the Federal Emergency Management Agency website earlier in the week.
The republished numbers said about 56 percent of customers of the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority had potable water, nearly three weeks after the storm. They said just over 9 percent of customers have electricity, although the U.S. Energy Department separately reported Friday that just over 10 percent of customers had power restored.
FEMA acknowledged it had removed the running tally early Thursday from its own website but said the same information was available elsewhere, including on a website maintained by the office of Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Rossells.
The decision to remove the information fueled suspicion the Trump administration was trying to improve perceptions about its response in Puerto Rico. The island, nearly 1,000 miles southeast of Florida, suffered severe damage to its power grid and other infrastructure from the powerful storm.
FEMA said Friday the figures will remain on its Hurricane Maria website going forward.
“While some information was not included in yesterday’s update to our website, at no point was the data not publicly available,” FEMA spokesman William Booher said in a statement. “Reports suggesting an effort to remove any data points are simply erroneous.”
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