Ten shipping containers filled with food, baby products, and over-the-counter medications like Tylenol — all supplies desperately needed in the days and weeks following Hurricane Maria — were found rotting in a Puerto Rico parking lot last week, never distributed.
The New York Times reports that a local Puerto Rican radio station found the goods, melted, spoiled, and covered in rat droppings, in a parking lot outside one of Puerto Rico's state elections offices. The goods were clearly meant to help Puerto Ricans in need, many of whom went weeks without electricity and running water last summer in the wake of Hurricane Maria.
The items, Radio Isla reports, were all private donations made by non-profits. Those items were "collected at the election commissions offices, and then distributed to the National Guard," who gave the items to struggling residents. After the crisis subsided, though, Puerto Rico's government officials apparently gave up on distributing supplies and left them rotting, still in their trailers, just outside their offices in San Juan.
Authorities told The New York Times that the goods had been there for "more than a year." In one of the containers, a local official said, was "whatever was left after the National Guard left was put in those containers.”
“In one of these containers was food for dogs and apparently several of the boxes were broken," he continued. "After the placement in the van, that brings a lot of rats and it infected everything.”
This most recent discovery is only one in a series of horrifying incidents that marked Puerto Rico's recovery. Last week, the government acknowledged that at least 1,200 people died in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, 20 times original estimates. And much-needed supplies, delivered by both private entities and the federal government, never made it to those most in need.