Days after Puerto Rico was hit by an island-wide power outage during the latest outage of a perpetually troubled electrical grid, nearly half a million customers were left in the dark early on Friday.
Power was slowly restored, but more than 440,000 customers still had no electricity, out of a total of more than 1.4 million customers, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks power outages.
For Puerto Rico’s 3.2 million residents, the island-wide power outage was a frustrating continuation of the hardships caused by an unreliable electrical grid. The problems have persisted even after a private Canadian-American consortium, Luma, took over power transmission and distribution from Puerto Rico’s public utility company last June with a pledge to reduce the frequency of power outages.
Luma said in an announcement on Thursday that “the energy grid has suffered a massive outage across the island, possibly caused by a faulty circuit breaker at the Costa Sur power plant.” The facility produces most of the electricity on the island.
Video footage circulating on social media showed a fire at one of the power plants in Costa Sur, on the island’s southeast coast. The exact cause of the power outage, which happened after 8 p.m. Eastern time Wednesday, is still under investigation, Luma said in a statement on Thursday. The company said there was “major damage” to the facility.
The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, known as PREPA, tweeted an image of the charred substation on Thursday, showing some components completely black.
Luma is “unable to provide an estimate of the full restoration at this time,” the company said in a statement Thursday afternoon. Efforts to restore power would last until Friday, it said.
Public school was canceled again on Fridaybut some government agencies requires essential personnel report to work† An estimated 182,000 water and sewer customers — about 10 percent — were also without water on Thursday as a result of the power outage.
gov. Pedro R. Pierluisi released a series of updates on social media, encourage people to “keep calm” and wait for official updates from government agencies and Luma.
In 2017, Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, cutting off electricity across the island and further exposing the fragility of the already fragile power grid. Some residents were without power for more than a year.
Officials have in the past attributed power outages to animals — one cat and the next an iguana, according to The Associated Press.
Last year, Puerto Rico privatized its power grid and awarded Luma a 15-year contract with an annual fee of $115 million to take over the transmission and distribution business from the beleaguered and bankrupt PREPA. The utility company is still involved in electricity generation.
When Luma took over, company officials said they were prepared for emergencies and hurricanes. However, the widespread blackouts have persisted and lasted longer than under PREPA.
Rafael Hernandez, the Speaker of the House of Representatives of Puerto Rico, said: in a tweet that a state-owned company operated by Puerto Rican suppliers, such as PREPA, could “work more effectively than the current energy system.” He called for Luma’s impeachment, saying “thousands of families are suffering” from the outage.
Patricia Mazzeic contributed reporting.