A photo of a stockpile of bottled water that was never delivered to hurricane victims. Picture: Abdiel Santana
A photo of a stockpile of bottled water that was never delivered to hurricane victims. Picture: Abdiel Santana

Water bottle stockpile that never reached hurricane victims

HUNDREDS of thousands of water bottles meant for victims of Hurricane Maria are still sitting at a Puerto Rico airport - nearly a year after the deadly storm, according to a report.

A photo showing the bottles in boxes and covered in a blue tarp on a runway in Ceiba was shared widely on social media on Tuesday.

"Although you don't believe it … almost a million boxes of water that were never delivered to the villages," posted Abdiel Santana, a photographer working for a Puerto Rican state police agency who took the pictures. "Is there anyone who can explain this?"

The photographer Abdiel Santana works for Puerto Rican state police agency. Picture: Abdiel Santana
The photographer Abdiel Santana works for Puerto Rican state police agency. Picture: Abdiel Santana

FEMA (the US Federal Emergency Management Agency) acknowledged to CBS News on Wednesday that the bottles were brought inland in 2017 in the wake of the hurricane and that they were turned over to "central government".

It is unclear why the bottles were never distributed.

Celebrity chef José Andrés, who brought a crew of volunteers to help feed victims of Maria in the wake of the storm, called for an "official independent investigation" into what happened to the stash of drinking water.

"My teams knew about it but first they will say, 'no we cannot use them,' months later water was no good for human consumption," he tweeted. "We were 'buying' water because they wouldn't give it to us." He didn't specify who "they" was.

The revelation comes as US President Donald Trump celebrated his administration's response to Hurricane Maria on Wednesday and lashed out at the mayor of San Juan, who has been a critic of the effort, as "incompetent".

The President raised eyebrows on Tuesday when he touted the response efforts in a meeting to go over preparations for the potentially devastating Hurricane Florence inching towards the east coast of the US.

"The job that FEMA and law enforcement and everybody did, working along with the governor in Puerto Rico, I think was tremendous. I think that Puerto Rico was an incredible, unsung success," he said.

The death toll from Hurricane Maria is estimated to be nearly 3000, a steep increase from the initial 64.



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