SHOCKING: Puerto Rico Never Used Massive Bottled Water Shipment Sent by Trump’s FEMA (VIDEO)

For months, Puerto Rico officials blamed the Trump administration for the response to last year’s Hurricane Maria, but a shocking discovery is calling the local response into question.

It appears a massive shipment of FEMA bottled water was left to rot on a Puerto Rico runway for nearly nine months. FEMA says the Puerto Rican government dropped the ball, while Puerto Rico blames FEMA, as residents are left wondering why the water was never used.

Reports say as many as 20,000 pallets of water sat unused, with the number of actual water bottles varying widely between reports. CBS believes it is in the tens of thousands, while CNN reported it could potentially be millions of bottles.

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FEMA says once the water arrived in Puerto Rico in January, it became the property and responsibility of local officials. Puerto Rico claims FEMA regulations did not authorize its use until April.

The revelation of the unused water, which is still sitting on a runway tarmac in Puerto Rico, comes as President Donald Trump says the government’s response to the hurricane was an “unsung success.”

It also comes as the President is questioning reports of how many people actually died.

This morning, the President tweeted his doubts that the number of those killed from the hurricane was as high as reported.

The president’s claims that the death rate was lower is being refuted by even some Republicans working on hurricane relief, but they say the exact number may never be known.

Regardless, it appears local officials in Puerto Rico did little to get the FEMA water distributed. By the time Puerto Rico began distributing water, it had spoiled in the sun, and tasted and smelled bad, residents reported.

USA Today reports.

Photos of the long stretch of bottles wrapped in blue plastic on about 20,000 pallets surfaced earlier this week. CBS News, which broke the story, said the photos were taken by Abdiel Santana, who works with the United Forces of Rapid Action agency of the Puerto Rican Police.

Carlos Mercader, executive director of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration, said in a statement that the bottles were not delivered to the government of Puerto Rico during last year’s emergency because they were in the custody of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) until April 2018.

He said a career official for the General Services Administration in Puerto Rico (GSA) requested FEMA’s inventory of excess water this year through a federal program on April 17 and was given approval to use the supplies on April 26, 2018.

But by the time 700 bottles were distributed, the water was undrinkable, with residents complaining of its foul smell and taste.

Even with some Puerto Rican officials trying to blame FEMA, there are plenty of indications that local government officials did little to get the water into the hands of residents.

Angel Cruz Ramos, mayor of Ceiba, where the runway is located, told CNN he’s grateful for the generosity but believes too much water was delivered at the wrong time. “The time and heat has made it bad,” he said.

For its part, FEMA said Wednesday that it “purchased the water as part of its supplies and determined there was a surplus” before making the water “available to any agency that needed it.”

“Once the transfer of water took place, the water became property of the government of Puerto Rico,” FEMA said, according to Reuters.

FEMA handles getting the supplies to the state or commonwealth, which in turn handle distributing those items at a local level, said Jeff Byard, FEMA Associate Administrator for Response and Recovery. “Obviously with Maria, we had not a supply issue, we had distribution issues,” he said in a briefing Wednesday about Hurricane Florence.

Ottmar Chavez, now administrator of Puerto Rico’s General Services Administration, said FEMA reported that it had about 20,000 pallets of excess bottled water in May this year, before he was appointed.

Puerto Rico’s GSA has ordered an internal investigation and assumes responsibility for requesting emergency it could not handle in a “timely manner” and for receiving supplies that were “not apt for consumption,” Mercader said in his statement.

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