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Supplies bound for Puerto Rico contaminated by rat infestation: report

The Hill logo The Hill 2/7/2018 Brandon Carter
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Boxes of supplies that were bound for Puerto Rico have been contaminated by a rat infestation, according to a new report.

The Orlando Sentinel reported that the supplies, which were being held at the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration (PRFAA) office in Kissimmee, Fla., were contaminated by rats before being sent to the island to aid relief efforts after Hurricane Maria.

The executive director of PRFAA, Carlos Mercader, told the newspaper that the organization "does not have the budget to finance the shipping costs" of the supplies to the island, and the organization was "unsuccessful" in its attempts to send the supplies through other ones.

"Due to the many Puerto Rican families that have been displaced to Florida because of the hurricane, we have donated the meals to Puerto Rican families in need," Mercader said in a statement to the Sentinel. "We will soon conduct an inventory of the donations to identify which ones are fit to be given out to Puerto Rican evacuees in Central Florida."

Mercader couldn't tell the newspaper how many boxes of suppliers were damaged by the rat infestation.

The organization works to promote public policy issues centered on Puerto Rico, as well as assisting Puerto Ricans who have moved to Florida.

Juan Hernandez Mayoral, who previously served as director of the PRFAA office in Florida, called the report of the ruined supplies "government negligence."

"Every day, those employees would go into that office and saw those boxes and they did nothing," he told the Sentinel. "As if there was no need on the island."

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Puerto Rican government agreed late last month to continue distribution of aid on the island after FEMA faced backlash for announcing it would no longer provide food and water to the island.

CNN reported last month that roughly half a million people on the island still don't have electricity. The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority said at the time it had restored power to more than 1 million clients, or about 70 percent of its customers.


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