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Chaotic scene erupts outside Texas grocery store after someone posts about ‘free food’ being distributed amid power outages

<i>From George Morales III/Facebook</i><br/>Authorities responded after false rumors about a free food giveaway led to gridlock and fights.
From George Morales III/Facebook
Authorities responded after false rumors about a free food giveaway led to gridlock and fights.

By Paradise Afshar and Michelle Watson, CNN

Authorities in Austin, Texas, responded to gridlocked roads near an H-E-B grocery store this week after more than 250 people clamored for food that had been discarded due to the sustained power outage at the location.

Travis County Constable Pct.4 George Morales III posted photos of the incident on social media and told residents to share the information that there wasn’t free food being distributed at the store, and it wasn’t safe to eat.

Morales went on to say that the food was “rotten and spoiled, and is unsafe to eat.” Law enforcement responded to the scene after roads were gridlocked due to the false post, Morales said.

In a statement to CNN affiliate KEYE, the H-E-B said, it “did not offer free food,” and that the store had power outages that contributed to a mass amount of rotten food.

A deadly ice storm that swept through Texas last week wiped out power to more than 400,000 homes, businesses and other electricity customers.

As of Sunday morning, at least 66,000 Texas customers had no electricity, according to the tracking website PowerOutage.US.

“Due to a sustained power outage, the store was unable to keep certain perishable foods at proper temperatures,” H-E-B said in a statement given to CNN affiliate KEYE.

“To adhere to strict food quality and safety standards, we are required to dispose of certain perishable foods when they are not properly temperature controlled, which also prevents us from donating the items to food pantries and food banks.”

As rumors about the free food giveaway spread, roads were gridlocked and law enforcement responded, Morales said.

CNN has reached out to the city of Austin and the Travis County Sheriff’s Office for comment.

Travis County was among those included in an ice storm disaster declaration issued by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Saturday.

Clarification: This story has been updated after George Morales III said he misspoke when he characterized the chaotic incident outside the Austin H.E.B. store as a “fight.” Morales now says it was a briefly unsafe scene.

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CNN’s Holly Yan conrtributed to this report.

Article Topic Follows: CNN - National

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