First the Meals Didn't Show. Now Rats Ruin Other Supplies

Infestation in Fla. government office affected boxes of supplies meant for Puerto Rico
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 7, 2018 9:09 AM CST
Supplies Meant for Puerto Rico Ruined by Rodents
Airline personnel prepare to unload donations being sent to San Juan, Puerto Rico, from Florida on Oct. 8, 2017.   (Dennis Rivera Pichardo/AP Images for AIDS Healthcare Foundation)

Puerto Rico is still in great need of hurricane relief supplies, as San Juan's mayor noted last week, which makes recent news out of Florida frustrating. The Orlando Sentinel reports that boxes of donated supplies meant to be sent to the island after Hurricane Maria remained stuck instead in a Kissimmee government office, and that a recent rat infestation has now contaminated some of the food, water, and other supplies that were left languishing. The office of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration, which its executive director says is situated in an "old" and "deteriorated" building, couldn't move the materials to their intended destination due to budgetary issues related to shipping. Carlos Mercader says attempts to recruit other groups to help them send the supplies were "unsuccessful."

A previous chief of the PRFFA is outraged by the wasted donations. "Every day, those employees would go into that office and saw those boxes and they did nothing," says Juan Hernandez Mayoral, who is also a former Puerto Rican senator. "This is government negligence." Newsweek notes this news comes on the heels of a contract canceled by FEMA after a one-woman company failed to deliver millions of meals to Puerto Rico as promised; Democratic lawmakers now want the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to subpoena FEMA to find out how that small company got the $156 million contract to perform that service. Meanwhile, Mercader says his team is trying to assess which supplies are still good and will then get them out to Puerto Rican evacuees living in central Florida. (More Puerto Rico stories.)

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