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CEIBA, Puerto Rico - 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.
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.
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.
“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.