- Abdiel Santana/Facebook
- A photographer said Tuesday that a stockpile of bottled water he saw on a tarmac in Puerto Rico a year ago was still there during a recent trip.
- The Federal Emergency Management Agency reportedly told the CBS News correspondent David Begnaud that it provided the water to the central government in response to Hurricane Maria in 2017, but it is unclear what kept the water from being distributed.
- Many of the deaths in the aftermath of Maria were attributed to power failures and limited access to healthcare and clean drinking water.
A photographer working for a Puerto Rican police agency posted photos online Tuesday that he said showed a stockpile of bottled water on a runway in the city of Ceiba that had gone unused for about a year.
The water was believed to be part of relief efforts after Hurricane Maria wrought devastation on the US territory last September. The photographer, Abdiel Santana, said he first spotted the stockpile of what could be millions of water bottles last year but took the photos after seeing it in the same place during a recent trip to the island.
The bottles were provided by the US Federal Emergency Management Agency and turned over to the central government last year, according to the CBS News correspondent David Begnaud, who first reported on the revelation.
“The water was kept in an area that was pretty hard hit during the storm and could have used all the water they could have gotten,” Begnaud said in a video report.
Nearly 3,000 deaths have been attributed to Hurricane Maria, making it the second-deadliest storm in the US. Many of the deaths were attributed to power failures and a lack of access to healthcare and clean water, according to a study from the George Washington University.
The Puerto Rican government initially linked just 64 deaths to Maria. The government withheld data behind its figures, prompting news organizations like CNN to take legal action.
The apparent bureaucratic breakdown comes as another looming natural disaster bears down on the US mainland. Hurricane Florence, a Category 4 storm, is expected to hit the Carolinas and Virginia as early as Thursday night with the potential for strong winds, a massive storm surge, and heavy rain.
On Tuesday, President Donald Trump boasted about his administration’s response to Maria: “Puerto Rico was incredibly successful,” Trump said, pointing to some of the problems the island had before the hurricane. “It was one of the best jobs that’s ever been done with respect to what this is all about.”
Trump earned some heavy criticism for those remarks, including from the outspoken mayor of the capital San Juan, Carmen Yulín Cruz, on Tuesday night.