The water, the food, the baby supplies, the Tylenol, and more — at least ten trailers full of donations intended for victims of Hurricane Maria — were found rotting and rat-infested in a parking lot at a state elections office in Puerto Rico. Authorities admitted that the supplies had been sitting there for a year, the New York Times reports.
A video posted by local station Radio Isla shows the cases, which never reached any of the thousands of Puerto Ricans devastated by the hurricane — who went weeks without electricity or running water — covered in rat and lizard droppings.
The goods donated by private entities and nonprofit groups were collected at the elections commission offices, and then distributed by the National Guard. Once the crisis subsided, goods were moved to trailers in the parking lot of the election bureau’s San Juan offices but apparently not delivered, despite continuing problems on the island.
A spokesperson for the National Guard told the Times that the supplies should have been distributed “as soon as possible,” but that some of the goods had probably been donated after the Guard ended its mission in May. Meanwhile, the head of the elections commission claims he’s “been calling the governor’s office and the National Guard regularly inquiring about plans to distribute the material, to no avail.”
It was not the first time food donated for Puerto Rico’s hurricane victims has gone to waste. Tons of supplies collected and sent by a South Florida man went bad when it turned out that he had paid the charter flight companies with fake checks. The airlines put a lien on the materials, which got soaked and ruined in the damaged airport.
Though the Puerto Rican government initially insisted that the Maria death toll was only 69, the latest records show that 1,427 died in the storm and the months that followed — which is to say, 20 times more people than the government’s first “official” count.