2018-09-12 20:11:54 UTC
As Hurricane Florence barrels towards the Carolina coast, photos purportedly
showing millions of undistributed water bottles meant for Hurricane Maria
victims that have been sitting on an airstrip in Puerto Rico for over a year
have gone viral on social media.
A CBS News journalist reported that he was told by the Federal Emergency
Management Agency on Wednesday that the bottles were brought by FEMA to the
island in 2017 after it was battered by the hurricane, but were then turned
over to the Puerto Rican government.
"The question is what happened after that. Where was the breakdown?" David
Begnaud asked in a video posted to his Twitter account.
The bottles were discovered by a photographer working for a Puerto Rican
police agency, Abdiel Santana, who first noticed them about a year ago and
saw the water again when he returned to the airport this week. They have sat
in Ceiba, Puerto Rico, one of the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Maria, ever
since, he said in a Facebook post.
"Is there anyone who can explain this?" he wrote.
The discovery comes as an independent study by George Washington University
recently found that nearly 3,000 people died as a result of Hurricane Maria,
a dramatic increase from the initial estimate of 64.
Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló also updated the official death count of
Hurricane Maria in late August.
While this is not the first time emergency relief and supplies were left
undistributed, the lack of oversight of the water bottles raises questions
about the government's response to hurricanes. It also led to criticism of
FEMA, which is currently preparing for Hurricane Florence set to hit the
Carolinas and Virginia later this week.
Brock Long, administrator of FEMA, said the best way to focus relief efforts
going forward is to build a culture of preparedness within America's
"So what FEMA is doing is pre-positioning the federal government's assets to
support each one of those governors that are about to be impacted with
achieving their response and recovery goals. And that's the way emergency
management and disaster response works best," Brock told reporters Tuesday.
"This is a partnership, and it takes anything from neighbor helping neighbor
all the way to the federal government when it comes to correctly responding
and recovering," he added.