SUNRISE — Today’s distribution of disaster food assistance at the BB&T Center in Sunrise turned into a disaster.
A computer glitch slowed the lines snaking through the parking lot and into the Florida Panthers’ arena down to a snail’s pace, stalling thousands in the torrid fall sun with no shade to be found.
By 3 p.m., said Sunrise Fire-Rescue Spokeswoman Danielle Digiacomo, fire crews called to the scene treated at least 35 people for heat exhaustion and other discomforts.
In line about 2:50 p.m., one woman in distress threw up at her feet but refused to move because she feared losing a place in line she staked out at 9 a.m.
“Our crews are treating people right there at the scene,” said Digiacomo. “Many are indeed feeling some discomfort.”
The distribution, organized by the Florida Department of Children and Families, is part of the Food For Florida Federal Disaster Assistance Program. It allows Floridians who lost food, parts of their homes and other goods in the recent Hurricane Irma to restock pantries and fridges.
The relief comes in the form of a pre-paid debit card that many of the people in line applied for on-line. With the computers down, what was supposed to be a faster process is taking hours.
“When we showed up this morning, a lady from DCF came out and announced the computers are down,” said a man in line who declined to identify himself.
He said he wasn’t particularly proud to be lined up for what he called a handout but said he needed it badly.
“She said we’d have to wait until we could re-apply on a piece of paper. I already filled out the form online and it actually took me a while. I’ve been here for two hours and line hasn’t moved.”
DCF spokeswoman Paige Patterson-Hughes didn’t return a call and an email for comment.