Just days after President Donald Trump described his administration’s response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico last year as “incredible,” an “unsung success” and “fantastic,” new photos revealed a major breakdown in the recovery process.
Photos first posted to social media this week by Abdiel Santana, a photographer working for a Puerto Rican police agency, showed tens of thousands of water bottles sitting on a tarmac in the city of Ceiba. The bottles were part of relief efforts after the devastating hurricane ripped through the U.S. territory.
According to CBS News correspondent David Begnaud, the water bottles were provided by the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and then handed over to the central government, which failed to distribute the supplies.
“The water was kept in an area that was pretty hard hit during the storm, and could have used all the water they could have gotten,” Begnaud explained in a video he posted to Twitter.
More Details pic.twitter.com/jyPGRqiIy3
— David Begnaud (@DavidBegnaud) September 12, 2018
Santana told Begnaud he knew posting the photos would enrage people, but felt it was important for the images to be shared.
Immediately after the CBS News reporter shared the photos, progressive activist and Democratic congressional candidate Erin Schrode of California claimed FEMA has known about the water bottles since early 2018. She went on to claim to have had “drone footage” of the supplies in February, which she said she “shared with media, but no one thought it mattered.”
This isn’t breaking news, but IS a travesty. @FEMA has had/known about this water — as have many of us here in Puerto Rico — since early 2018. I had drone footage of the already unusable bottled water in February. I shared with media, but no one thought it mattered…🤷🏻♀️🇵🇷 https://t.co/PoyrV50eod
— Erin Schrode (@ErinSchrode) September 12, 2018
It is believed that around 2,975 people died as a result of the horrific hurricane. The massive number was revealed in late August after the Puerto Rican government claimed for almost a year that only 64 people died in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.
News about the abandoned water bottles comes as FEMA and state and local authorities prepare to respond to Hurricane Florence, which is expected to make landfall along the East Coast sometime between Thursday night and Friday morning.
The massive hurricane, currently a category 4, is forecast to hit the Carolinas with winds potentially reaching 130 mph.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 12, 2018
Trump tweeted Wednesday that the incoming storm is “looking even bigger than anticipated,” urging those in the hurricane’s path to “get out of its way.” The president said the government is “fully prepared” to handle its impact.