Large Power Outage Affects
870,000 Customers Across Island
By DANICA COTO
Some 870,000 electricity customers across Puerto
Rico were left without power on Thursday after
another widespread outage, forcing the island’s
main public hospital and international airport to
switch to backup generators as the island struggles to
recover from Hurricane Maria.
The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA)
said a tree fell on the main line that supplies power
to the capital of San Juan and surrounding areas
from the north coast to the southeast. The tree fell as
crews cleared land in the southeast mountain town
of Cayey as part of power restoration eff orts. Interim
power company director Justo González said it could
take seven to 11 hours for power to return.
The announcement sparked outrage across social
media from people who said they are fed up with ongoing
outages and demanded a permanent fi x to that
line, which has failed several times in recent months.
Some people riding on San Juan’s electric-powered
rapid transit system got stuck and had to get out and
walk along the rails. Shops and movie theaters at the
island’s largest mall had to close.
Left without air conditioning, barber shops and
other businesses threw open their doors as employees
kept working. Among them was the restaurant Casa
Manolo in San Juan, which doesn’t have a generator.
It kept cooking on gas stoves for the 30 customers dining
at the time of the outage.
“You get used to it,” said owner Manolo Piqueres.
“The sun comes out eventually.”
Fredyson Martínez, vice president of a union
that represents PREPA workers, said in a phone interview
that another line the authority was trying to use
to help back up the main line also failed on Thursday
for unknown reasons.
Puerto Rico is still relying on nearly 900 of the
more than 2,000 temporary generators installed by
federal offi cials after the storm. Backup generators
at the island’s main public hospital and international
airport kicked in following Thursday’s outage.
Across the island, more than 50,000 customers
of PREPA’s 1.47 million remain in the dark since the
Category 4 storm struck on Sept. 20 and destroyed up
to 75 percent of distribution lines.
Federal offi cials said Wednesday they expect to
have a plan to strengthen and stabilize the power grid
by June for an initial estimated cost of $17.6 billion
(see story on page 5).
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