Thousands of bottles of water for Hurricane Maria victims left on hot tarmac at naval base

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Puerto Rico Death Toll Nearly 5,000 High Post-Maria, Study Says

- What could be millions of bottles of water meant for the victims of Hurricane Maria, who were dying for fresh water, never made it to those suffering in the aftermath of the powerful hurricane a year ago, but instead were abandoned on the tarmac at a former U.S. naval base in Ceiba, Puerto Rico, according to news reports.

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Pallet after pallet of bottled water sat on the hot airstrip and was never delivered to the thousands of people so desperately in need of water that they were drinking from contaminated sites all over the island following the storm, which knocked out power to most of the island.

The mayor of Ceiba, Angelo Cruz Ramos, told ABC News that at least a thousand pallets of water were abandoned at the former base, Roosevelt Roads, and that he was unable to access it because the base is in a restricted zone. Ramos said he only found out about the surplus on Tuesday when photos of the thousands of bottles of water went viral.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, confirmed to ABC that the water was part of a surplus of supplies in April and was transferred to the islands’ General Services Administration.

Some of the water was initially delivered, but complaints about the taste and smell caused the government to begin testing.

It’s unclear who is at fault for the wasted water.

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“The government of Puerto Rico did not receive the water to distribute during the emergency, it was under FEMA's custody and it wasn’t until April 2018 that the surplus inventory was available upon request," Puerto Rico’s secretary of public safety, Hector Pesquera, said at a press conference in San Juan on Wednesday, according to ABC.

In the year since Maria pummeled the U.S. territory, the initial death toll of just over 60 people has been revised to almost 3,000.

Many blame the Trump administration and FEMA for what Puerto Ricans have called an inadequate response to the deadly disaster that left the island without power or clean drinking water for months.

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Thousands of bottles of water for Hurricane Maria victims left on hot tarmac at naval base

Mario Tama/Getty Images
People fill containers with water funneled with pipes from a mountain stream in Utuado, Puerto Rico, nearly one month after Hurricane Maria struck on October 19, 2017. Shortages of food and water in areas with only 21.6 percent of grid electricity and 71.58 percent of running water restored. Puerto Rico experienced widespread damage including most of the electrical, gas and water grid as well as agriculture after Hurricane Maria, a category 4 hurricane, swept through. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

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