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Report: Undistributed donations for hurricane victims found rotting at government facility

Refrigerated shipping containers containing unclaimed bodies, are parked in an open parking lot next to the Puerto Rico Forensic Institute in San Juan, on June 11, 2018. - Puerto Rico's morgue is overflowing with unclaimed bodies, the result of budget cutbacks in the US territory since last year's devastating Hurricane Maria. The bodies of 307 people are now being kept in the morgue and in four refrigerated containers in a nearby lot, the authorities said. (Photo by Ricardo ARDUENGO / AFP/Getty Images)

Food that was donated and sent to Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria in 2017 rotted in the parking lot of a government facility instead of being distributed to survivors, CBS News reported Friday.

About 10 containers of non-perishable supplies also sat at the facility for 11 months.

What is the death toll from the disaster?

Earlier this week, the Puerto Rican government announced there were “1,427 deaths "more than normal” during the four months after Hurricanes Maria and Irma, which passed just north of the island. The death toll is still not finalized.

The deaths are blamed on the recovery process following the devastating storms, not the storms themselves.

Initially, the Puerto Rican government said only 64 people died.

A Puerto Rican radio station first posted video clips of supplies covered in rodent droppings. When CBS News crews arrived Friday, the trailers were locked, the news outlet reported.

One of the containers had "food for dogs, and apparently several of the boxes were broken. After the placement in the van, that brings a lot of rats and it infected everything,” Nicolás Gautier, an official at the facility, told CBS News.

The National Guard indicated that the donations were not distributed because the items were expired, the report stated. The products were located at Puerto Rico's elections commission, which served as a collection site for donations.

How many bodies are unidentified?

Two weeks ago, a CBS News crew visited a morgue in Puerto Rico that had a backlog of about 300 unidentified bodies still awaiting autopsies.

According to the report: “...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.”

The Puerto Rican government recently reached out to FEMA for money and personnel to help process the bodies. And that is when the death figure was updated.

“...the backlog is just one of many issues on the island,” the news outlet reported. “While things have improved nearly a year after Maria hit, the problems in Puerto Rico are so systemic and have been around for so long that even improvements that are being made are only pecking away at the surface.”

One last thing…
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