Puerto Rico is still suffering the consequences of Hurricane Maria and many are trying to recover from losing everything. In the wake of such tragedy, CBS News Correspondent David Begnaud reported on Friday that donated food sent to the island was left to rot in a parking lot of a government facility.
Additionaly, there are about 10 containers filled with non-perishable supplies that have been just sitting at the government facility for 11 months.
A video of supplies covered in rodent droppings was first posted by a Puerto Rican radio station. The trailers with the containers were locked Friday when CBS News arrived. The National Guard said in a statement the donations that been highlighted were not distributed because they were expired. Stored items that were not expired would be distributed in the coming days, the National Guard said.
The Puerto Rican government reported earlier this week that there were 1,427 deaths “more than normal” in the four months after Hurricanes Maria and Irma. Initially, Puerto Rican officials had said there were only 64 deaths from the storm.
A CBSN Originals team was in Puerto Rico two weeks ago. They visited a morgue that has a backlog of roughly 300 unidentified bodies waiting to undergo autopsy.
CBS News’ David Begnaud said that five 18-wheeler units housing unidentified bodies sit in the back of the facility, and that one trailer has housed people for at least up to three years. He said that the CBSN Originals team was invited to visit the site at the request of the governor’s press secretary following news reports on the island about a foul odor coming from the back of the facility.
“We were taken to one of the trailers. The door was open. And the smell was pungent,” Begnaud said. “That you would expect … because there are bodies inside. But the bottom line: when we were there, we did not smell a foul odor.”
Reports on the issue appear to have prompted Puerto Rican officials to take action. They recently reached out to FEMA requesting money and personnel. On Tuesday, 13 Puerto Rican National Guardsmen arrived at the forensics sciences center where they will serve as mortuary officers, helping to receive and transfer bodies. Radiologists, pathologists and dentists have also been requested to help process the backlog of unidentified bodies, and are expected to arrive on the island in the coming weeks.