(NEW YORK POST) – 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 Tuesday evening.
“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?”
FEMA 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 where the breakdown that caused the bottles to never be distributed was caused.
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 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 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 Tuesday 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 had said.
The death toll in Hurricane Maria is estimated to be nearly 3,000, a steep increase from the initial 64.