FEMA Concealed Thousands of Water Bottles Meant for Victims of Hurricane Maria
PUERTO RICO — September 13, 2018
The photo showing a massive stockpile of bottled water in boxes and covered in a blue tarp on a runway in Ceiba was shared widely on social media Tuesday evening.
"Although you don’t believe it… almost a million boxes of water that were never delivered to the villages," said Abdiel Santana, a photographer working for a Puerto Rican state police agency who took the pictures. "Is there anyone who can explain this?"
According to the photo, 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.
It is unclear where the breakdown in communication happened which led to the bottles never being 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 can not use them,' months later the water was no good for human consumption," he tweeted. "We were ‘buying’ water because they wouldn’t give it to us.
My teams @WCKitchen @natemook @ErinSchrode knew about it but first they will say no we can not use them, months later water was no good for human consumption.We were “buying” water because they wouldn’t give it to us @ricardorossello we need an official independent investigation! https://t.co/FG2bainoVD— José Andrés (@chefjoseandres) September 12, 2018
"He didn’t specify who 'they' was.
The revelation comes as President Trump doubled down on 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 when he touted the response efforts in a meeting to go over preparations for the potentially devastating Hurricane Florence inching toward the Carolinas.
"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.
Hurricane Maria is regarded as being the worst natural disaster on record to affect Dominica and Puerto Rico and the deadliest Atlantic hurricane since Hurricane Jeanne in 2004. The hurricane caused incredible damage and numerous fatalities across the northeastern Caribbean. According to an official data, the death toll in Hurricane Maria is estimated to be nearly 3,000, a steep increase from the initial 64.