Trailers of donations meant for distribution to victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico have been found rotten and infested in the parking lot of at a state elections office in San Juan. Radio Isla, a local radio station, posted images of the cases of goods covered in the droppings of various vermin. The radio station confirmed that its representatives saw nine trailers, plus a 10th being removed by the Department of Corrections. It is unclear how many trailers had been at the site.
A spokeswoman for the elections commission said the goods, donated by private entities and nonprofit groups, was being managed by the National Guard. Maj. Paul Dahlen, a spokesman for the National Guard, said some of the materials arrived after the National Guard ended its mission in May. The Guard now says that the items in the trailers that isn’t spoiled will be distributed to nonprofit groups in the coming days. It did not explain why the donated goods had not been handed out earlier.
When the devastating hurricane struck the island last year, widespread power failures made it very difficult for people to procure necessary supplies. Many stores, restaurants, and banks were closed and many of the homes lacked electricity and running water. Despite continuing problems on the island, the National Guard apparently failed to plan the delivery of the recently found goods. Authorities acknowledged that they had been there for nearly a year.
Nicolás Gautier, interim president of the elections council, said in an interview that he had been contacting the governor’s office and the National Guard regularly about the items in the trailers. He had been growing increasingly concerned about the infestation of the items so close to the occupied building. His fears appear to have been realized. He says that some of the rats have moved from the trailers into the elections commission offices.