Donations for Puerto Rico hurricane victims found rotting in parking lot

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Several trailers filled with donations for Hurricane Maria victims were found rotting at a state elections office in Puerto Rico this week.

The New York Times reported Friday that at least 10 trailers full of food, water and baby supplies were broken open and overrun with rats.

The Times noted that local radio station, Radio Isla, published a video showing cases of items such as beans, Tylenol and water covered in rat and lizard droppings.

According to the Times, the Puerto Rico elections commission offices were used as a collection center for donations from private entities and nonprofit groups after the island was ravaged by Hurricane Maria last year. Once they were collected, the donations were then distributed by the National Guard.

As the severity of the crisis diminished, the donations were then reportedly stored in trailers in the parking lot of the election bureau’s San Juan offices, where they remained despite continued problems in the region.

Officials confirmed to The Times that the items had remained in trailers for almost a year.

“I agree, it should have been handed out as soon as possible,” Maj. Paul Dahlen, a spokesman for the National Guard, told The Times, adding that some of the materials were received after the National Guard ended its mission in May.

Nicolás Gautier, interim president of the elections council, told CBS News that “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 added. “After the placement in the van, that brings a lot of rats and it infected everything.”

In a statement to The Times, the National Guard also said the containers seen in the video were being used to store food that had arrived after its expiration date. The statement also said items in the trailers that were not spoiled would be delivered to nonprofit groups soon.

The Times report comes almost a year after Hurricane Maria devastated the region and left many without power and electricity. Many have argued the Trump administration’s response to the disaster was too slow and not extensive enough, and helped play a role in the island’s ongoing fight to restore normality.

On Thursday, the Puerto Rican government acknowledged that more than 1,400 people likely died on the island because of the storm, roughly 20 times the previous official estimate.